POULSBO — Memories of last spring and the 2A state tournament are still fresh in the minds of this year’s North Kitsap fastpitch team. And the players are back for more.
It had been over a decade since a Vikings softball team had qualified for state, but this group, almost entirely consisting of underclassmen, were able to take third in the Olympic League and then catch fire in the district tournament, going 3-1 with two shutouts, losing only to league champion Port Angeles.
With nearly the entire roster back, hopes and expectations are both high for this season.
“The girls know the expectations, they know how we play North ball,” said head coach Jamie Smaaladen. “They got the taste of state last year and that’s what they’re going for.”
The Vikings are off to a good start. They opened with a 12-2 win over Central Kitsap and began a five-game week Monday with a 10-0 clubbing of Shelton. Such a heavy schedule is the norm once the postseason rolls around, and should help them prepare for the late-season grind.
Ace right-hander Sarah Smith got the call in the circle and scattered six hits over five innings of work. She struck out four and walked none. Smith also got it done at the plate, going 2 for 3 and delivering one of the big blows in a seven-run fourth inning that helped end the game prematurely.
And when the Highclimbers put the ball in play, the defense was as sure-handed as ever. The Vikings are fortunate to have some of the league’s best defensive players up the middle in Lamara Villiard (catcher), Iyreland Lawson (shortstop), Alicia Goetz (second base) and Brianna Hoffman (center field); though the team is sound all around the diamond.
“They play very solid,” Smaaladen said. “Even if one person doesn’t have a good game, the others are picking them right up.”
The defense made its presence felt early. Shelton put runners on first and third in the first inning, but Villiard picked off the runner at third base and Smith induced a pop-up to get out of the jam. The Highclimbers would get only one more runner to third base for the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, the offense produced immediately. Goetz led off the first innning with a walk and Samantha Burgh sacrificed her over to second and she eventually came home to score on a wild pitch. Makayla Stockman added an RBI-single in the second, driving home Hoffman, who doubled to start the inning. Stockman scored on a wild pitch herself and North Kitsap led 3-0 after two.
The Vikings then exploded for seven runs in the fourth. Smith singled with one out and moved up as Kelsey Johnston drew a free pass. The duo advanced to second and third on a wild pitch before Goetz doubled into the gap to bring them both home.
Smith came up again later in the inning with the bases loaded, and slashed a single into the right-center gap to score two more runs.
The league schedule begins Wednesday with a home game against an improved Bremerton team. The Vikings are hoping to push for the top spot this year. Port Angeles, Sequim and Olympic are always tough and Kingston has improved as well. But the talent is there to grab the crown.
“We’re aiming for it,” Smaaladen said.
North Kitsap 10, Shelton 0
SH 0 0 0 0 0 —0 6 3
NK 1 2 0 7 x — 10 7 0
WP: Smith LP: Walters
Shelton — Walters 3.1 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, K; Hyland .2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 0 ER, BB, 2 K.
North Kitsap — Smith 5 IP, 6 H, 4 K.
Shelton — Miller 2-2, 2 2B; Gouley 1-2; Mentzer 1-2; Dugger 1-2; Hyland 1-2.