Ryan senior helping Ragdolls reach new heights

Senior Haley Burns is doing the most she can to make sure the Ragdolls continue to succeed.

Tori Slook (left) and Haley Burns show off the Catholic League championship. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Haley Burns knows good pitchers.

She also knows how to calm them down and let them do their thing.

Burns is a senior catcher on the Archbishop Ryan High School softball team, and this year marked the second time in two years the Ragdolls started a freshman hurler.

Last year, Sarah Vargas got the ball in big games for Ryan and she helped lead the team to the Catholic League semifinals.

This year, Vargas moved to first base and freshman sensation Dana Bell took over pitching duties for the Ragdolls, and she pitched them to the championship.

Both pitchers had everything it takes to be a star in the Catholic League, but at the same time, they had no experience playing varsity softball.

That’s where Burns came in.

“It wasn’t very often because they’re both really, really good pitchers, but I would help them when they needed it,” the Bustleton resident said. “I would try to frame the pitches if they missed their spots or just help calm them down. They didn’t need it often, but I would help them whenever they needed it.”

The way Burns looks at it, she was just doing what someone did for her.

When Burns was a freshman, Ryan had Sarah Ostaszewski as its catcher. Ostaszewski, who is now playing at St. Joe’s University and is the sister of current Ryan shortstop Kate, was the top player in the Catholic League at the time. She was also a great leader and teacher.

“She helped me so much,” said Burns, who played behind Ostaszewski. “She was so good, but she taught me a lot. We would work together and she helped me a lot. It’s why I was happy to help younger players when I had experience.

“They were good, I just had to help them any way I can. Just work with them and make sure to never yell. You just want to help and be a leader.”

This year, behind Burns’ leadership and Bell’s pitching, the Ragdolls ran roughshod over the Catholic League, finishing the regular season with just one loss. They then went on to win the Catholic League championship and last week followed that up with a 12–0 victory over String Theory in the District 12 5A championship, also known as the city title.

“It was good for us because we didn’t win last year,” Burns said. “It was really big. We played pretty good, and I’m happy we’re going to the state playoffs. I thought winning the city championship was big, too, because even though we won by a lot, they’re a good team. They were really good, and it wasn’t easy for us.”

The Ragdolls were predicted to compete for the championship this year, but few expected them to do it with such ease, especially because many of the key players were underclassmen.

Burns knew she would be relied on for a lot, but as a senior and a starting catcher, she knew she had to be a strong leader behind the plate and in the dugout.

“I just tried to do whatever I could to help the team,” Burns said. “I wasn’t the best hitter on the team, but I tried to do the best I could and I think I did my part.

“The seniors tried to help the younger players as much as we could. We really needed them. They really played well. We were there to help them if they needed anything, but they were good.

“I worked with both Sarah and Dana before they got to Ryan. I would catch them before they got there at camps and I knew they were both good. Dana did great this year.”

Next year, the Ragdolls will have high hopes of repeating and with many players returning to the mix, they should be in good position.

They will, however, need to replace their leader behind the plate.

Burns is headed to Texas, where she will do training for the Air Force.

“I’ve always wanted to go into the military and I like the Air Force,” said Burns, who will leave in November after spending the summer down the shore. “I think it will really set me up for college and will help me because I want to do either security or (be a) firefighter.

“After college, I’m not sure if I want to be an emergency room nurse or be a firefighter. I like helping people, so that will be a good way of doing it.”

And when she’s back home, she’ll be back at Ryan watching the players she mentored.

She fully expects more success for her team.

“They’ll be really good,” Burns said. “Dana is great and they have a lot of other good players. I’ll miss playing with them.”