Ricker bounces back

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PENDLETON — One definition of “resiliency” is an ability to recover readily from adversity. It’s a trait possessed by many athletes, including Audrey Ricker.

As she has found, sometimes the opportunity to recover takes a year; sometimes it happens in the blink of an eye.

The Pendleton Heights senior returns to lead the Arabian pitching staff after a junior season that saw Ricker lead the team with eight wins, 20 appearances, 111 innings pitched and 39 strikeouts. It also was a season when she experienced one of her greatest career highlights, and it came in the postseason.

Ricker hurled a complete game seven-hitter as Pendleton Heights beat rival Greenfield-Central in the sectional championship game 5-1. It was a 1-1 game until her teammates plated four runs in the seventh to help her notch the victory. It was also a win that helped her exorcise demons from a loss in the same game a year earlier.

“The year before, we had lost to Greenfield-Central because of a home run hit off me,” she said. “That game meant a lot to me personally. Obviously, it meant a lot to the team, winning a sectional championship, but for me personally, that will be one of the games I remember most.”

Ricker says she thrives on the low-scoring close games that could be abundant this season, with many of the Arabians’ opponents, much like Pendleton Heights, returning many of their best pitchers. This includes the first game of the season, which saw Ricker pitch her team to a 2-0 opening day win.

“I like close games,” she said. “I like the challenge; I kind of thrive on it, if you will, especially if it’s the sixth or seventh inning and we’re up by one. I try to use it to my advantage and get a little stronger as the seventh inning comes around. It’s kind of my thing — always has been.”

After her junior year, Ricker committed to play softball at St. Joseph’s in Rensselaer, Indiana. But in February, news broke that the school, due to financial difficulties, was closing its doors and the students would have to continue school elsewhere. That included athletic recruits like Ricker, who said she found out the same way everyone else did.

“My coach texted me that there were problems and they weren’t sure what was going to happen,” Ricker said. “Then, that night, I saw it on the news and on Facebook.”

This time, it did not take Ricker a year to bounce back. She had an immediate response.

“Trinity Christian,” she said. “Trinity was very gracious about my decision because (St. Joseph’s) was closer to home. It wasn’t about the money or the school; I actually liked Trinity a little more. But St. Joseph’s was closer to home and my parents have never missed a game, whether my dad was there or my mom was there. Especially my mom, she was my coach for a while.”

Trinity Christian College is located in Palos Heights, a suburb of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois. Ricker said the coaches at Trinity left the door open.

“They said, ‘If anything happens, give us a call,’” she said. “Well, something happened. They said I’ll always have a spot on the team, and they welcomed me with open arms.”

While at Trinity, Ricker will study for a career as a physical therapist or as a nurse.