Advertisement

Daily Pilot High School Female Athlete of the Week: Finley helped CdM end PCL drought

Raine Finley had played softball since the age of 6 when suddenly, she decided to put the sport aside for a season.

It was her junior year at Corona del Mar High, and her schedule had become too full with soccer.

Advertisement

She would walk past the softball field as her classmates carried on with practice or competed in a game. Right away, she felt a tug on her heartstrings.

"I would see everyone just playing their heart out," Finley said. "I truly missed that."

Advertisement

"This is the longest sport that I have ever played. I played soccer, but I started that when I was 12."

A return to the game would be in the cards, and this time, her dad would join her in the dugout.

She is the daughter of former Angels starting pitcher Chuck Finley, although the 18-year-old only remembers being at games in his twilight years as a Cleveland Indian and a St. Louis Cardinal.

Far from being a helicopter parent, her dad's presence as an assistant coach has made this season especially fun. Finley was able to lean on him for advice in the most critical moment of the season to date.

The Sea Kings were in a close contest at Beckman in their Pacific Coast League opener. CdM had not won a league game since May 6, 2008.

In the seventh inning, the Sea Kings were trying to rally. Finley realized that it would be up to her to keep the line moving. Her team was down, 6-4, and she was going to be up with the bases loaded.

"I was like, 'Dad, I hate this position that I'm in. [What if there are] two strikes, bases loaded? If I strike out, we're going to lose. I'm going to feel so bad,'" Finley thought out loud.

"He was like, 'Raine, you can't think of it like that. Just think momentum.'"

Advertisement

A positive approach turned into a positive outcome. Finley had popped up in all of her previous at-bats, but she also wanted to avoid the strikeout.

She swung at the first pitch, and it struck the pitcher on one hop. The ball ricocheted into shallow right field, allowing both Mallory McCrane and Sophia Rhee to score.

In the Patriots' haste to try to catch one of the runners on the base paths, the ball was thrown away. Brooke Franson wound up scoring as a result.

A celebration broke out among her scoring teammates at home plate as Finley pulled into second base, her hands coming together in an excited clapping motion.

"Right when we touched home base, we were like, 'Yeah!' We were so excited," Finley recounted. "We were so proud of each other. We haven't won in God knows how long, so it felt amazing."

That was only the top half of the inning. Corona del Mar still had to get three more outs, nursing a one-run lead.

Advertisement

The Sea Kings were on pins and needles for that next half inning. A runner reached base to bring the winning run to the plate, but Rhee caught a liner at third base. She fired over to Finley at first, and CdM doubled off the runner for the final out.

"It was like a whole five minutes of super mixed emotions," Franson said. "We knew that all we had to do was hold them for three more outs."

Corona del Mar's softball program had become defined by its league drought, so much so that Jordann Wakabayashi recalled being asked what she was going to do to fix it when she interviewed for the head coaching position.

The Sea Kings first-year coach sent out an email to the entire team the night that the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the World Series.

"I told them, it's been 108 years for them," Wakabayashi said. "It's been eight for us. They did it. Why not us?"

"There's no reason for us to continue this because we have all the pieces that we need. We just have to be able to put them together."

Advertisement

Corona del Mar is 9-6 overall, 1-0 in league.

Finley is batting .342 this season. She bats in the No. 6 spot in the order, demonstrating the length of CdM's lineup.

She also has a .976 fielding percentage in 85 chances, which is the best mark among the team's non-outfielders.

The senior first baseman bats right-handed, but she throws left-handed. Finley says that is the case because her father only had left-handed gloves as she was growing up.

She said that as soon as people learn who her father is, people look at that as a reason to find similarities in their play. Finley insists that she is her own person, and the decision to play softball was her own.

"My dad has helped me with different techniques and all, but I think I'm my own good player for me being myself. I just had some extra backbone to it."

Advertisement

"I'm not really living in a shadow. My dad, obviously, doesn't really want that, either. He didn't even force me to play softball. I think I just picked up on it because I saw him play."

Wakabayashi has tried to get her team to focus on the "one game at a time" philosophy. If one league win was the equivalent of winning the World Series, then there are many more chances to celebrate after their performance in the league opener.

No student would ever dare to say this, but Spring Break could not have come at a worse time for a streaking CdM team that has won three in a row.

The Sea Kings are in the middle of a 13-day layoff between their win over Beckman and their next game against University.

"We were just talking about it," Franson said of the extended time off at the team's practice on Thursday. "We had a lot of momentum after that game."

The senior shortstop fears a drop in the energy that was gained from that win.

Advertisement

Finley squeezed in her Daily Pilot interview an hour before leaving for her Spring Break plans. She is going to weekend one of the Coachella Music Festival in Indio.

Perhaps the Sea Kings' first baseman will discover some rocking beats to bring the good vibes back for her team.

*

Raine Finley

Born: June 1, 1998

Hometown: Newport Beach

Advertisement

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 140 pounds

Sport: Softball

Year: Senior

Coach: Jordann Wakabayashi

Favorite food: Sushi

Advertisement

Favorite movie: "Napoleon Dynamite"

Favorite athletic moment: In her freshman year, she caught the fly ball that ended a game as the Sea Kings' right-fielder. She also handled the final out on a double play in CdM's league win over Beckman last week.

Week in review: Finley produced the hit that resulted in Corona del Mar making a two-run comeback for its first league win since 2008. The hit came with two outs in the seventh inning at Beckman on April 5.

Andrew.Turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @ProfessorTurner


Advertisement