Emily Ruck’s indoctrination into softball seemed like a harsh one, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
"When I was 11 or 12 years old, a girl on our town’s rec team broke her arm and the team was desperate for a player to take her place," Ruck said. "My parents talked me into it. Honestly, they pushed me into it. You could say I hit the ground running."
Ruck pitched and won that first game in Amanda, and, as the old adage goes, the rest is history.
Within three years, Ruck already had college scouts on her trail, and during her freshman year at Amanda-Clearcreek she committed to Ohio State.
"I just decided I wanted to work hard at it and become the best I possibly could," Ruck said. "I got really serious and took on one of the best pitching coaches around, Randy Moziejko, and things really took off when I went to the summer tournaments and camps."
After making first-team All-Mid State League for a mediocre Amanda team as a sophomore, Ruck’s parents split up and she moved to Westerville to live with her father and his girlfriend. She enrolled at Westerville Central in August 2018.
"My parents talked about it, and they decided it would be a better situation for me going up there because I’d get better competition playing against Division I teams," she said. "Considering the quality of play I was facing over the summer, I wasn’t really worried that I was going to be in over my head, but I’d be lying if I said I expected to have the season I did" in 2019.
Westerville Central coach Brian Wamsley knew who Ruck was and figured she might be a solid contributor for a team coming off its first district title.
"Our ace pitcher, Sydney Stepp, suffered a torn biceps and was lost for the season, so I thought Emily might head up a committee to replace her," he said. "I had no idea she’d turn out to be as good as she was."
Ruck didn’t suffer her first loss until taking the Warhawks (28-3) to the state tournament in Akron, where they fell to Liberty Township Lakota East 4-3 in a semifinal.
She finished 22-1 with a 0.96 ERA with 231 strikeouts in 123 innings. She also batted .400 on the way to earning first-team All-Ohio recognition.
"After the first practice, I knew we were going to be special," Ruck said. "We were so like-minded and driven. Sure, I was facing better hitters, but I had people around me that were great hitters and fielders. It was like a dream season."
However, a nightmare ensued in March when the coronavirus pandemic struck, eventually forcing the cancellation of Ruck’s senior season.
"I feel so horrible for Emily and our other four seniors," Wamsley said. "They talked about unfinished business, and although it’s very tough to get through the Central District and our region, I thought we had a good chance to do it."
Devastated at first, Ruck conceded that she remains in a semi-state of denial. She continues to work out with Moziejko and throws frequently with her father.
"And we don’t even know if we’re going to have summer ball now," she said. "My focus is geared toward Ohio State now. I’m really excited about that opportunity."
Upon Ruck’s signing Nov. 14, Ohio State coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly said: "Emily brings a unique style to the mound for us. She has elite spin on her pitches that generate rare movement. She has a great blend of tenacity, skill and competitiveness. I am excited to see her develop throughout her career."
Wamsley fully expects Ruck to thrive at the next level.
"Emily has long arms and long legs that enable her to get maximum velocity and movement on her pitches," he said. "She has really good mechanics, and her work ethic is unbelievable. In addition to all the work she put in to become a dominant pitcher, she completely sold out to become the best fielder and hitter she could be. That’s a formula that’s hard to beat."