POULSBO — Before the season even started, it was apparent that one of the North Kitsap fastpitch team’s biggest strengths this year would be its mix of experienced seniors and talented sophomores.
Sophomore and reserve player Melody Griffin drove home that point — literally and figuratively — when she broke open the deadlocked Bainbridge-North Kitsap opener Monday in the bottom of the sixth with a double to right center.
“We put (Griffin) on the spot and brought her off the bench,” Vikes’ coach Dan Kolda said. “She took one look at it and capitalized on the first pitch.”
“I had a ball right down the middle and I knew we needed to score some runs,” Griffin said. “So, I just put all my power behind it and swung away.”
The Vikings never looked back, beating the Spartans by a count of 4-1 and demonstrating “out of the gates,” as coach Kolda said, that North Kitsap will be a formidable mix of youthful talent and experience.
Viking pitcher Heather Case, league co-MVP a year ago, also took the opportunity to pitch a complete game, giving up only one run and striking out 10 batters en route to the win. She also went 2 for 3 at the plate, hitting a single and a triple.
“(Case) sent the message today that she’s ready to play ball,” Kolda said.
The win is also a reversal of season’s past, when Bainbridge has started with the upper hand, Kolda added.
“As an opening game Bainbridge has had something on us the last couple of years,” he said. “We really wanted to beat the mojo they had on us.”
Injuries to Bainbridge’s first and second hitters Amber Bond and Amanda Szarzynski didn’t help matters for the Spartans. Bond was hit in the elbow by a pitch in the first inning and Szarzynski was also struck in the elbow by an errant throw to third by catcher Alexis Hugar in the second.
“The distractions of the injuries … knocked us off a bit kilter,” said Bainbridge Coach Steve Nelson.
North came out firing from the start in the bottom of the first. After a Rachel Kramer walk, sophomore Coreena Stout hit a single through the gap at short to land the first Viking run. NK would eventually load the bases, but a force out at home with a ground out and strike out got the Spartans out of the inning.
Bainbridge struck back in the top of the second, with a single and stolen base by Hugar. Spartan Carrie Parsons took first on a North error that scored Hugar.
Both teams had their chances in the middle innings, but neither capitalized until North Kitsap’s 6, 7 and 8 spots came to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
Right fielder Molly McCluskey drew a walk to start things and off the bench came Griffin for the Vikings. Belting the ball to right-center field, the sophomore scored McCluskey all the way from first.
NK got insurance runs when Chrystal Camus layed down a bunt to score Griffin and Lindsey Ericksen later scored Camus from third. Bainbridge grounded out three times in the top of the seventh to end the ball game.
The North Kitsap fastpitch team will travel to Bainbridge Island and take on the Spartans for another contest today, beginning at 3:30 p.m. And the game plan for today’s game?
“We’re going to beat ‘em,” Griffin said.