Two of a kind

Melinda Rust and Stina Blockhus aren’t twins — but they could certainly fool anyone.

“The way they speak and the way they laugh — they act exactly the same,” mutual friend Kara Baumgartner said.

Both girls are sophomores on Olympic College’s softball team. Rust is a feisty, athletic pitcher. Blockhus is a goofy, full of grit infielder.

On the field, they can easily be heard yelling support for each other. Off the diamond they are glued at the hip.

“I love her to death. It is ridiculous,” Blockhus said during a recent practice at Lions Field. “She’s just the sister I never had. We do everything together.”

Since they met in an eighth grade social studies class, the 20-year-olds have spent most of their waking moments together.

They used to do their hair and makeup and get ready for their high school dances in the same bathroom. Today they work together every Sunday morning at the same job at Sizzler in East Bremerton.

“Stina has a key to Melinda’s house,” Baumgartner said.

Added Rust, “We’re really, really close. Even our vacations we take together.”

On the softball team, Blockhus plays shortstop and has maintained a .305 batting average this year. One of her biggest thrills is turning a quick double play with the second baseman Kelly Lincoln. But when it comes down to it, she just likes being on the team. She tries to raise people’s spirits whenever she can.

“She’s the one that keeps the team alive and together,” said Roxanne Johnson. “She would say ‘come on, come on, keep it up.”

Her coach Brian Strege says she is a boost to the team, and she has tremendous hustle on the base baths.

Strege recalled the time Blockhus laid a bunt down the first baseline. Where some of her teammates might have given up, Blockhus ran it out for a base hit.

“This year her defense has gotten a lot better also,” he said. “She’s making the plays that need to be made.”

Both Blockhus and Rust were raised in Bremerton. They attended Bremerton High School together. So far, Blockhus has committed to Central Washington University, and Rust may follow in her footsteps. The two might be roommates.

When Blockhus has a moment to reflect on her friend’s strengths as a softball player, she talks about her courage.

When Rust was 16, she played center midfield on her soccer team. One game, she just got smashed by an opponent fighting for the ball.

She ended up with two bulging discs in her back, and severe pain to this day.

Because pitching requires so much twisting, Rust didn’t step on the mound at all during practice. Its her way of saving her back. Then when the game comes along she takes a glob of pain pills. Sometimes she has to walk off early because it hurts too much.

“She throws so hard now and is so accurate, and she is in so much pain every game,” said Blockhus.

Although Rust is known by her teammates for her salty personality, she always responds to advice from Strege with a sharp obedience.

“One of Melinda’s strengths is she’s one of our best bunters,” said Strege, noting Rust is batting .346. “I can ask her to bunt and I know she’ll get it done. You’ll ask her to do something and she’s always like ‘okay.’ She is a great example, and a great friend.”

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