By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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But it is completely reasonable to expect both teams will have another chance to earn a trophy in Selah next May.
For the Wolves, returning to Sequim without hardware was particularly difficult, after earning trophies the two previous years — including a state championship in 2011.
They went to state eyes on a second championship, but opened the tournament with a loss to eventual champion Selah, followed by another to Sedro-Woolley, which would finish fourth.
Instead of battling for a trophy, Sequim (21-4) was done after two games.
It was an unfortunate conclusion to the successful careers of seniors Rylleigh Zbaraschuk, Bailey Rhodefer, Hannah Grubb and Columbia Haupt.
All four veterans were key components in the Wolves’ high-powered batting lineup. Rhodefer, Grubb and Zbaraschuk were the first three batters in the lineup, and all three batted over .500 for the season.
“You can’t replace that,” Sequim coach Mike McFarlen said.
That doesn’t mean the Wolves can’t move on and remain a state power next season.
“I fully expect us to be back in [the state] tournament next year,” McFarlen said.
But, the cupboard isn’t being left bare, and Sequim is no stranger to thriving after losing standout players.
The Wolves lost Lea Hopson and Maddy Zbaraschuk after winning the state championship in 2011, but still managed to place fourth last year.
Then, Demiree Briones, the ace pitcher for both state runs, graduated, but this season’s team still plowed through the regular season with just one loss.
Makayla Bentz, this year’s ace, and power-hitting first baseman Alexas Besand highlight the Wolves coming back in 2014.
Joining them will be second baseman MaryLu Clift, Olivia Kirsch (who McFarlen said could be the best fielding third baseman in the state), Melissa Lewis and Shelby Lott.
All six players mentioned made key contributions for the Olympic League champions.
Freshman McKenzie Bentz and Allysen Montelius didn’t see much action this season, but are expected to be important players in the future.
“When they’re seniors, those two will win games by themselves,” McFarlen said.
Both will pitch, and McKenzie Bentz will play catcher, while Montelius is expected to play center field, where Zbaraschuk has roamed the last four years (“Those are tough shoes to fill,” McFarlen said.)
Port Angeles, meanwhile, loses only one senior (second baseman Raelyn Lucas) from this season’s team, which took third place in the West Central District tournament and placed second in the Olympic League.
The Roughriders (21-6) also became only the second team in school history to win a state tournament game when they defeated Granite Falls 6-3.
That win was followed by a loss to defending state champion W.F. West, before they, like Sequim, were eliminated by hot-hitting Sedro-Woolley.
“These girls battled and battled all year long,” first-year Port Angeles coach Randy Steinman said.
Pitchers Sarah Steinman and Cara Cristion return, as does top hitter and starting shortstop Maddy Hinrichs, and power-hitting Ashlee Reid at third base.
Catcher Tori Kuch and first baseman Dove Lucas will be back, as will outfielder Khason Politika, Carley Gouge and Haley Gray.
If Sequim’s objective is to reload, the Riders’ goal is to improve.
“Our pitching will be a year older, and we’ll work on more off-speed pitches,” Randy Steinman said.
“We’ll work on hitting. The way teams hit [at the state tournament] is amazing. After seeing that, I’m sure our girls will want to hit like them.”
Along with all the returners, the Port Angeles JV team is packed with talented players waiting to make the jump to varsity.
Players such as Jaidyn Larson, who filled in at shortstop in the first to state games while Hinrichs battled the flu, Hope Wegener, Kerri Hinsdale and Rachell Eastey helped the JV squad dominate much of its schedule this season.