The Lefties’ Aki Buckson, right, raises his helmet to teammate Benny Kaleiwahea after Buckson rounded the bases on a third-inning homer on Saturday evening at Port Angeles Civic Field. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The Lefties’ Aki Buckson, right, raises his helmet to teammate Benny Kaleiwahea after Buckson rounded the bases on a third-inning homer on Saturday evening at Port Angeles Civic Field. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

2017 SPORTS IN REVIEW: It was the year of the Lefties in Port Angeles

It was a year of Lefties, hurdlers, grapplers and the Cardinal. A year of records being shattered in soccer and a year in which the sprint boats went quiet.

We look back at 2017 with our top 10 sports stories of the year.

1) The Lefties arrive

Fans flocked to Civic Field to enjoy the inaugural season of the Port Angeles Lefties, a collegiate-level wood-bat summer baseball team, that opened play June 1.

The team fielded players from universities such as Harvard, UCLA and Washington State, and played nearly 30 home games from June through early August.

Many of those games came in front of large home crowds eager to enjoy a summer evening with a view of the Olympic Mountains, a cold beverage and baseball.

Port Angeles finished in the upper third in attendance in the 11-team West Coast League. The Lefties also were selected to host the league’s All-Star game celebration featuring a concert, home run derby and all-star game, on Monday and Tuesday, July 16-17, 2018.

Lefties fans also can look forward to an improved public address system at Civic Field in 2018 when Port Angeles opens its home slate against rival Victoria on May 31.

2) Softball title games

Four North Olympic Peninsula high school softball teams advanced to respective state tournaments in 2017, with Port Angeles and Quilcene going all the way to the Class 2A and Class 1B state title games.

The second-place finishes were the best fastpitch finishes in school history for the Roughriders and Rangers. Quilcene does have a 1987 slowpitch state title.

Port Angeles (22-2) was led by dominant pitcher Nizhoni Wheeler, the 2017 All-Peninsula Softball MVP who is now playing basketball and softball for Lower Columbia College. The Riders also hit the most home runs in team history, led by Natalie Steinman’s 11. The Riders went undefeated in Olympic League 2A Division play and stormed through Districts and the state tournament, beating their postseason opponents by the combined score of 50-2 until they were finally beaten by WF West in the championship.

Port Angeles’ Randy Steinman was selected coach of the year for guiding the Riders to a fourth straight Olympic League title and the school’s first-ever outright West Central District Championship.

3) Lucas state champion

Forks wrestler Josue Lucas had a spectacular season which culminated in him winning the state 1A championship at the 106-pound weight class.

Lucas had some close calls at the Mat Classic, winning one match by a single point, but he kept outpointing his opponents and moving on. Just a sophomore, he also won the 1A Regionals, the Evergreen 1A Sub-regionals and the Sgt. Justin Norton Memorial Wrestling Tournament. He went 35-4 on the season. Lucas’ season helped a very strong Forks’ boys team finish sixth at the Mat Classic. His teammates Jack Dahlgren finished second while Garrison Shumack finished third.

4) Seren Dances state champion

Port Townsend’s Seren Dances had one of the most spectacular track seasons imaginable. Dances completely dominated hurdles and jumping events, winning a total of 27 events all season.

At the state 1A track meet, Dances ended up taking first in the 110-yard hurdles, the 300-yard hurdles, the long jump and came in second in the triple jump. Dances single-handedly garnered 38 points at the state track meet and helped Port Townsend finish third at state.

5) Extreme Sports Park sells property

The Extreme Sports Park announced in June that the property was up for sale and that all scheduled sprint boat events at the site were canceled. Sprint boat events that had taken place at the property since 2011 came to an end.

6) Individual spectacular football performances.

This past football season saw some amazing individual performances on the North Peninsula. Forks’ Cole Baysinger rushed for 352 yards and five touchdowns against Chimacum on just 20 carries. Crescent’s Noah Leonard had several big games, but his best might have been 242 yards rushing on 12 carries for five TDs against Mary M. Knight.

Quilcene’s Andy Johnston helped the Rangers go undefeated in regular season and his biggest game might have been against Tacoma Baptist. He had three touchdown passes, threw for 122 yards and had 178 return yards.

Teams focused on Gavin Velarde all season and he had some good games in spite of the attention. He really broke out against Kingston with a five-touchdown effort. Velarde had six catches for 229 yards (including catches and runs of 85 and 65 yards), a 76 interception return for a tochdown and a 12-yard TD run.

7) Peninsula women’s soccer

The Peninsula soccer women shattered a number of Peninsula and Northwest Athletic Conference records while running up a record of 20-0-0. The women obliterated the NWAC record by scoring a shocking 142 goals.

Along the way, Pirates forward Sydney Warren set a school scoring record with 31 goals while teammate Jordyn DiCintio had 28 assists, also a school record.

The defending NWAC champions met Highland in a repeat of the NWAC championship game from 2016, but the women couldn’t quite cap off a dream season, losing a heartbreaker 1-0 to Highland. Still, it was an amazing season.

8) Neah Bay’s Cameron Buzzell walks on to the Cardinal football team.

Years of hard work academically and athletically paid off for Neah Bay’s Cameron Buzzell when he was admitted to Stanford University and walked on to the Cardinal football team.

The star of the Red Devils’ 2016 state football championship pursued a spot with Stanford’s football team this year, essentially recruiting himself on to the team by making contacts with Cardinal grad assistants and impressing members of the coaching staff with his athletic ability. Buzzell suited up for all of Stanford’s home games in 2017.

9) Port Angeles girls soccer

The Port Angeles soccer girls make an impressive playoff run in the state 2A tournament, finally losing in the state quarterfinals in overtime.

The Port Angeles soccer girls turned into a team no one wanted to play, getting red-hot in postseason. The girls actually struggled a bit at the end of the regular season, losing three out of their last four matches and backing into the playoffs.

Once they got to District, they turned things around, winning three games out of four. Then, they shocked East Valley of Yakima by winning 2-0 in the first round of the 2A State playoffs. They were tied 3-3 in the quarterfinals to West Valley of Spokane when they finally lost in the second overtime.

Along the way, the girls set Port Angeles High records for most wins in a season (13) and most goals in a season (66) led by a spectacular freshman in Emilia Long.

10) Coupeville leaving the Olympic 1A League

Coupeville’s move to bolt the Olympic 1A League left both Chimacum and Port Townsend scrambling to figure out a league they can play in. The two schools might end up in a three-school league with Klahowya or try to join another league. The possibility of the two schools combining athletic teams and competing in 2A has also been suggested..

Port Angeles’ Natalie Steinman, 5, reaches home plate to a resounding welcome after hitting a two-run home run in the Riders’ 13-2 win over White River in the district championship last Saturday. (Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles’ Natalie Steinman, 5, reaches home plate to a resounding welcome after hitting a two-run home run in the Riders’ 13-2 win over White River in the district championship last Saturday. (Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News)

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