POULSBO — The long and winding road for North Kitsap’s senior softballers has finally led them to the summit of the Olympic League.
The season before the core of this team — catcher Lamara Villiard, pitcher Sarah Smith, third baseman Mackenzie Wagner, shortstop Iyreland Lawson and second baseman Alicia Goetz — showed up at North Kitsap, the program had just completed a 2-16 season that included an 0-12 record in the Olympic League.
Slowly but surely, these talented freshman made progress. They qualified for the district tournament as freshmen and sophomores and went to the 2A state tournament as juniors.
Heading into their senior season, two goals had still eluded them. They had never won an Olympic League championship, and, naturally, had not beaten Port Angeles, the perennial title holders.
All that changed on Monday with a help of a freshman phenom.
Makayla Stockman struck out nine hitters and gave up just one run in seven innings as the Vikings captured their first league championship in 15 years, beating Port Angeles 3-1 in front of a raucous home crowd.
“It’s amazing; it’s a feeling you can’t explain,” Goetz said. “We’ve been working for this for four years.”
Lawson went 2 for 3 at the plate and drove in a run, and sophomore Brianna Hoffman picked up an RBI on a bases loaded walk. That was all the offense the Vikings would need in an extremely tight, tense, dramatic game.
“We have not beaten PA in so long, it feels so good,” said head coach Jamie Smaaladen, who was a senior on the 2004 North Kitsap league championship team. “They’re an amazing ballclub.”
Goetz drew a walk to start the game and Samantha Burgh reached on an error. Both runners moved up to second and third on a wild pitch and a walk drawn by Villiard loaded the bases. Lawson then drove in the first run of the game with a single.
The next batter, Hoffman, sent a hard grounder to second where Port Angeles’s Hope O’Conner tried to tag Villiard as she ran by, but in the process the ball fell out of her glove. By the time she recovered, Hoffman was safe at first and a second run scored.
Meanwhile, Stockman deftly navigated a dangerous Port Angeles lineup with precision and power.
The freshman fireballer stranded two runners in scoring position in the second with a strikeout to end the inning, and worked around an O’Conner leadoff double in the third. With the bases loaded in the sixth — after Ava Brenkman had finally gotten the Roughriders on the board with an RBI-double — she regrouped and got Zoe Smithson to pop out to short.
Port Angeles mounted another rally in the seventh, getting runners to second and third with one out after a walk and a double. But Stockman reared back and struck out the next batter, and then induced a groundout to end the 15-year drought.
“She was tired the last two innings,” Smaaladen said. “She powered through, it was great.”
Finishing at the top of the league is just one of many goals for these seniors, so before long it will be back to business as usual. The Vikings have two regular season games remaining, and then it’s off to the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey for the 2A West Central District III tournament. This is one group that certainly won’t rest on their laurels.
“We still have more people to prove wrong,” Goetz said.
North Kitsap 3, Port Angeles 1
PA 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 — 1 6 5
NK 2 0 0 0 1 0 x — 3 6 0
WP: Stockman LP: Watson-Charles
Port Angeles — Watson-Charles 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.
North Kitsap — Stockman 7 IP, 6 H, R, ER, 3 BB, 9 K.
Port Angeles — Brenkman 1-2, 2B, RBI; Nevaril 2-4, 2B; O’Conner 1-3, 2B; Smithson 1-4, 2B; Clark 1-1.
North Kitsap — Lawson 2-3, RBI; Hoffman 0-2, RBI, BB; Burgh 1-4, 2 R; Villiard 1-2, BB; Wagner 1-3; Smith 1-3; Goetz 0-3, BB, R, SB.