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Peninsula Daily News
SEQUIM — Rylleigh Zbaraschuk won’t let a few losses ruin the fun.
Coming into her senior year, the center fielder said the Sequim softball team had one objective.
“We really just wanted to make every game fun,” said Zbaraschuk, who has been selected as the 2013 All-Peninsula softball MVP.
“This is the funnest year I’ve ever had coaching ball,” Wolves coach Mike McFarlen said.
Sequim rolled through the regular season and looked primed to make a run at another 2A state tournament to go along with the one they won in 2011 when Zbaraschuk was a sophomore, or at least a state placing, something like the fourth-place finish in 2012.
But a loss in the district tournament relegated the Wolves to a lower seed at state, and after only two games — losses to eventual champion Selah and fourth-place finisher Sedro-Woolley — Sequim was out.
“It sucked in the moment,” Zbaraschuk said, “but looking back on my senior season, it was a great time.”
That attitude is a contrast to how Zbaraschuk plays.
Sure, she might be having fun, but it is a fierce type of fun. A focused and fiery kind of fun.
Sometimes it seems it might even be an I’m-ready-to-fight kind of fun.
She goes all out.
She also excels at every aspect of the game.
At the plate this season, the switch-hitting Zbaraschuk hit .561 (including .514 with runners in scoring position), with four homers, 16 doubles and 35 RBI.
“She hits from both sides with power,” McFarlen said.
“Not many girls can go to state and hit home runs from both sides of the plate.”
Zbaraschuk did so at state in each of the last three years.
Her bat was so dangerous that Olympic League teams often pitched around her — she drew an amazing 28 walks this season — much to her chagrin.
Very much to her chagrin.
“I don’t like getting walked; It’s the worst feeling ever,” Zbaraschuk said.
However, she’s equally dangerous, and probably even more aggressive, as a base runner. She stole 19 bases in 21 attempts this season and scored 36 runs.
Zbaraschuk will play for the University of Washington as a walk-on, and she expects the Huskies will primarily use her as a slap hitter in order to utilize her speed.
And that’s fine with her.
“I love messing with the infield,” she said.
Zbaraschuk said her favorite part of softball, though, is messing with opposing base runners and hitters from the outfield, where she was a four-year starter for the Wolves.
“I love defense,” she said.
“I love the feeling of catching the ball; I love throwing people out a home.”
Test her at your own peril.
“If you try to go two [bases] on Rylleigh, big mistake,” McFarlen said.
“If you want to tag up from third on Rylleigh, she’ll get you.”
Even more than the extra-base hits, stolen bases and outstanding defense, McFarlen said next year’s Wolves might miss Zbaraschuk’s leadership — and that of fellow seniors Bailey Rhodefer (who shared the Olympic League MVP honors with Zbaraschuk), Hannah Grubb and Columbia Haupt — the most.
As with her on-field play, Zbaraschuk also was multi-faceted as a leader, doing so by example and with her vocal chords.
“I was really loud in the dugout; I screamed for everybody,” she said.
“When we were loud, we felt better, and I think we played better.”
McFarlen said that because the Wolves were a tight-knit group that had played together since long before high school, they didn’t require a whole lot of leadership.
But, he added, Zbaraschuk set the tone.
“She motivates the girls to work hard every day at practice,” McFarlen said.
“She’s going to be a great coach one day.”
Zbaraschuk often stayed after practice to put in extra work on the tees, or throwing in the field.
“She didn’t get great by not working really hard,” McFarlen said.
“I had a great relationship with her; she’s easy to talk to and coachable. And she works hard at what you ask her to do.”
Zbaraschuk’s work continued each summer when she played on travel teams, such as the Northwest Bullets, based in Portland, for whom she currently plays.
She also has attended camps at the University of Washington, hoping to realize her goal of becoming a Husky.
“Let’s be real, she could go to any school and play softball,” McFarlen said.
“It’s one of her dreams [to play at Washington]. I have to hand it to her: She worked hard and made it happen.”
There, the work will continue.
“I wanted to go somewhere that would push me to get better,” Zbaraschuk said.
Beyond college, Zbaraschuk said she would jump at the chance to play on the international level, as her sister Maddy, who plays catcher for the University of Missouri-St. Louis, did with the Polish national team this year.
“If anyone ever asks me to [play internationally], Poland or the U.S.A, definitely I will,” Rylleigh Zbaraschuk said.
Sports reporter Lee Horton can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.