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PLAYER PROFILE: Karns City’s Ronni Radaker Learns Nothing is Certain Following Devastating Fire in April That Destroyed Family Home

(This is one in a series of summer player profile articles. If you would like to participate, fill out this PLAYER PROFILE form for a chance to be selected.)

CHICORA, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Ronni Radaker was sitting in her eighth period class at Karns City High School on April 5 when a classmate leaned over to her.

“Is this your address?” he asked, talking about a fire that was currently engulfing a home near Chicora.

Radaker said yes.

“By ninth period, everyone already knew that my house had burned down,” Radaker said.

The fire completely gutted the home. Her father, Ron, was working in a garage on the property, the family dog by his side, during the blaze. No one was hurt.

A candle left burning was the culprit.

Ronni Radaker, just a freshman on the Karns City softball team, suddenly had her life turned upside down.

Ron was a longtime volunteer firefighter and served in the military for more than two decades. Ronni is currently helping out at the Sugarcreek Volunteer Fire Department.

They never thought this would happen to them.

“When it’s your own house, it’s a completely different story,” Ronni Radaker said. “You’re just clueless. You don’t know what your next steps are. We had no idea what we were going to do, where we were going to stay. We had to demolish the whole thing. It was all totaled. Fortunately, we have a camp up in Knox, it’s called Wolfs Camping Resort, and we’re staying there this summer. We have our own little normal.”

Meanwhile, the family is rebuilding at the site of the fire.

The experience has taught Radaker that nothing is certain. She has applied that to her athletic career as a softball and volleyball player at Karns City, as well as in other aspects of her life.

She hasn’t been shy about volunteering her time in the community. As well as working at the Sugarcreek Volunteer Fire Department, gathering tools and equipment for the firefighters during traffic accidents, fires and medical helicopter zones, she also volunteers at the the VA in Butler.

“You should never take your life for granted because you never know when God’s gonna call your name,” Radaker said. “So play your hardest, not only for yourself, but for the rest of your teammates because you don’t know when you’re gonna be able to play again. Something can happen in an instant and you may not be able to play again.”

Radaker made the most of the opportunities she had on the softball field this season for Karns City.

She saw some time as a pitcher and also played at second base and in the outfield.

Radaker homered against Redbank Valley that broke a 6-6 tie and sent the Gremlins on the way to an 11-6 victory over the Bulldogs in late March. She showed flashes of being a potential impact player in the years to come.

She’s also determined to work on improving her skills.

Radaker showed initiative that belied her youth, asking for a meeting with the Karns City softball coaches.

“I sat down and asked them what I can improve on as a player,” she said. “Even though I was playing varsity, I was always taught that there was something better that I can improve in all-around. You can’t just go out and hit a ball off a tee to improve. You have to go back to your mechanics and work on your mechanics to be able to improve your basics. They were surprised that I was a freshman going to them and asking to meet and asking them what I can work on.”

One of those coaches, Mike Stitt, stepped down as the head softball coach after eight seasons.

“I can say he was definitely one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Radaker said. “He was a great coach all-around. It was a blast to have him as a coach, but also a friend and to be able to have fun with us in practices. A lot of coaches these days don’t really allow you to have fun.”


Name: Ronni Radaker

School: Karns City

Year: Sophomore

Sports played: Volleyball and softball

Q: What are your goals in sports?

A: To help my teams as much as I can because I play on a softball travel team (Nitro Fastpitch 16U Walker) over the summer, so I play all year round. Be a good teammate and be a good sport to one another. I would really like to get a scholarship to go to college and play softball someday.

Q: How old were you when you started playing softball?

A: I was four.

Q: Wow. That’s early. Was it always the sport that was your passion?

A: I grew up playing lots of sports. I played soccer. I did tap and ballet. Gymnastics. Cheerleading. Volleyball. But I dropped half of those to focus on playing softball because that’s what I love to do. It’s always something that I’ve had more of a passion for than anything else.

Q: I was going to ask you if there was something people would be surprised to know about you, but I’m guessing that would be you did tap and ballet.

A: (Laughing) Yes. I think people would be really surprised that I used to tap.

Q: Complete this sentence: In my fridge you will always find blank.

A: Friends.

Q: You’d always find friends in you fridge?

A: (Laughing) I didn’t hear that right. I thought you asked something else.

Q: I thought so, because if you have friends in your fridge, this is a completely different story.

A: (Laughing) I thought you asked what I enjoy most about sports is blank. (Laughing again). But you’d find salad. We always have salad.

Q: Gotcha. Sometimes things get lost in translation. All right, One more fun one for you. What three famous people would you like to have dinner with and why?

A: Jayda Coleman, Jenny Finch and Zach Bryan. Jada Coleman and Jenny Finch because they are some of my favorite softball players. I have loved Jenny Finch ever since I was a little girls. She’s always been a player I looked up to, not only for how great of a player that she was as a pitcher, but she wyas just such a well-rounded person with one of the biggest hearts and player could have. And Jada Coleman — she’s just an outstanding hitter. I would love to be able to hit like her.