By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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MVP: Makayla Bentz, Sequim (Senior), pitcher—Voted Olympic League MVP by the league's coaches. Threw perfect game against North Kitsap. Second straight All-Peninsula nod.
Sammy Rae, Quilcene (Junior), pitcher— Went 16-2 with 147 strikeouts. Threw four no-hitters, including two perfect games. Batted .582 with a 1.300 slugging percentage and 56 RBIs.
Sarah Steinman, Port Angeles (Senior), pitcher—Olympic League First Team pitcher was 11-2 with 1.23 ERA and 9.46 strikeouts per game. Had .440 batting average with a home run and 22 RBIs.
Tori Kuch, Port Angeles (Senior), catcher—Olympic College commit batted .455 and knocked in 13 runs. Was voted Olympic League First Team catcher.
Megan Weller, Quilcene (Sophomore), catcher—Hit .652 on the season with a .782 on-base percentage. Also was 2-1 as a pitcher. Second All-Peninsula honor for the sophomore.
Alexas Besand, Sequim (Senior), infield—Third time receiving All-Peninsula honors. The power-hitting first baseman also was voted to the Olympic League First Team.
Ashlee Reid, Port Angeles (Senior), infield—Batted .612, hit three home runs and had 24 RBIs to earn Olympic League First Team honors. Second time on the All-Peninsula softball team.
Mary Lu Clift, Sequim (Junior), infield—Picked for Olympic League Second Team at shortstop. Teamed with Olivia Kirsch to form a formidable right side of the infield.
Olivia Kirsch, Sequim (Junior), infield—Voted to Olympic League First Team by the league's coaches. Manned third base in the Wolves' stout defensive infield.
Emily Klahn, Forks (Senior), infield—Named All-Evergreen 1A League Second Team at third base. Hit .410 with a .560 on-base percentage. Only committed three errors all season.
Melissa Lewis, Sequim (Senior), outfield—Olympic League coaches picked her for the second team as an outfielder. Also was one of the Wolves' top pitchers.
Carly Gouge, Port Angeles (Junior), outfield—Speedy center fielder batted .600 with four home runs and 21 stolen bases. Was voted to the Olympic League First Team.
Coach: Randy Steinman, Port Angeles—The Roughriders earned a share of the Olympic League championship and took fourth at the West Central District tournament before making a nice run and coming within one game of placing at state.
Honorable Mention: Nizhoni Wheeler (Port Angeles); Shelby Lott (Sequim); Alicia Howell (Port Angeles); Gen Polizzi (Port Townsend); Allison Jones (Quilcene); Haley Gray (Port Angeles); Cara Cristion (Port Angeles); McKenzie Bentz (Sequim); Hailey Engeseth (Forks); Katie Bailey (Quilcene); Alyssa Wetzler (Port Angeles); Baili Shaw (Port Townsend); Courtnie Paul (Forks); Mia Henderson (Port Townsend); Halie Wilson (Sequim); Halle Palmer (Forks); Tia Bourm (Sequim).
The Sequim softball team traveled to face Port Angeles for the last game of the regular season with more than bragging rights on the line.
The Wolves were seeking revenge for a 5-0 loss to the Roughriders a few weeks earlier, the first varsity loss any of the Sequim players had suffered to their rivals.
They also were playing for a share of the Olympic League championship and a first-round bye at the district tournament.
Bentz, the Wolves' starting pitcher, would be in the spotlight for every play that Sequim's defense was on the field. Even the slightest mistake could be costly.
No big deal.
“I love that. I love being a part of every play. It's my favorite thing to do,” Bentz said.
“Some people don't like that, and they don't like that pressure. I've known pitchers who have stopped pitching because they don't like the pressure.
“I don't know why . . . but that's one of my favorite things about pitching is getting to be involved in every play and knowing that my team really relies on me.”
Bentz pitched a complete game, scattering seven hits with four strikeouts and four walks as the Wolves beat the Riders 8-2.
Just another typical outing for Bentz, who is the All-Peninsula Softball MVP.
“She's the same all the time,” Sequim coach Mike McFarlen said. “She amazed me every time she pitched.
“I'm never too worried about [her pitching] because I know she's going to throw strikes.”
Bentz started pitching when she was 9 years old. The all-star team she was playing on didn't have a pitcher so the coach — her dad, Dave — asked if she wanted to pitch.
“It kind of just stuck after that,” Makayla Bentz said.
Her dad has been her pitching coach since, and Makayla said he has been a big reason for her success. At first, though, Dave Bentz also had a lot to learn about pitching.
“He didn't know what he was doing, either,” Makayla said. “He had to read books and watch videos to learn how to be a pitching coach so that he could teach me how to be a pitcher
“He was brand new when I first started, so he had to learn along with me.”
Daughter and father put in hours honing her pitching skills, but it all paid off.
Makayla Bentz played on four consecutive state-qualifying teams and was Sequim's ace her junior and senior seasons. She was voted Olympic League MVP this season and was picked for the first team in 2013.
“She works really hard,” said McFarlen, who has coached Bentz all four years, the last three as the varsity head coach.
“She improved every year I had her.”
Bentz said her work ethic comes from being a perfectionist, and in one game this season, she actually reached perfection.
Against North Kitsap near the end of March, Bentz tossed a perfect game in Sequim's 18-0 win over the Vikings in five innings.
Bentz struck out 13 of the 15 batters she faced. North Kitsap didn't even put the ball in play until there were two outs in the bottom of the third inning.
The Sequim coaches realized what was happening but didn't tell Bentz about her accomplishment until after the game.
“They were afraid to tell me and have me give up a hit,” Bentz said.
“But I had a pretty good idea I was doing good when, you know, there weren't people getting on base.”
And it just so happened to be the perfect day for Bentz to throw a perfect game.
“It was really cool. It was on my 18th birthday and I threw a perfect game,” Bentz said. “It was awesome.”
Catching that game was another Bentz — McKenzie, a sophomore who ended up being the perfect choice to replace Bailey Rhodefer, Makayla's catcher for several years before graduating in 2013.
“Bailey Rhodefer had been my catcher for a really long time, and so it was going to be really different,” Makayla said.
“But it was actually really good and I loved having McKenzie as my catcher because she knows me really well and I know her really well, and it just worked. She was a good sister and catcher at the same time.”
Another Bentz, freshman Jordan, played an inning of the perfect game and spent a good portion of the season on the varsity team with her older sisters.
“It was really fun,” Makayla said.
“When Jordan came up, we didn't know if she was going to make the varsity team because she's a freshman and she's young, but her goal was to make the varsity team so that the three of us could play together my senior year.”
Makayla Bentz thrived just as much in the classroom as she did the pitcher's mound and was Sequim's valedictorian this year.
She will attend Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, where she plans to try out for the Lutes' softball team.
“She's a great kid and I wish her the best,” McFarlen said.
“I know she'll excel at anything she does.
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Editor's note: Updated to correct Olivia Kirsch's accomplishments and to add Tia Bourm to honorable mention list.]