PORT ANGELES — With spring sports practices underway inside gyms and slowly spreading to fields and diamonds, here are five stories to watch featuring teams and individuals on the North Olympic Peninsula this spring.
Can Port Angeles baseball get back to state?
There’s a whole lot of baseball to be played before even considering this question, but with the crop of returners expected back, Port Angeles is likely to be busy deep into May again this season.
The Roughriders have made three-straight state tournament trips and the defending Olympic League champs return a upperclassmen-dominated lineup again this spring.
Port Angeles has been a little snake-bitten at the state level, losing first-round contests by identical 2-1 scores in extra inning defeats in 2016 and 2017 and falling 5-2 to eventual state runner-up Mountlake Terrace last May.
The Riders return outfielder/pitcher Ethan Flodstrom, a junior who was picked as the All-Peninsula Baseball MVP by area coaches and the Peninsula Daily News.
Add in hard-throwing lefty Brody Merritt, who tallied a 0.81 ERA in 25 innings and a 33-6 strikeout to walk ratio, and senior catcher Joel Wood who keeps things organized behind the plate and opposing pitchers honest when he’s up to bat.
Dietzman and Wiker duo
Sequim basketball teammates Jessica Dietzman and Kalli Wiker transition from the hardwood to the hardcourt this spring. The girls tennis doubles duo forehand smashed the opposition in 2018, winning league and district titles and not dropping a set until the state tournament.
The pairing lost just once on the season, falling in the state championship match last May to place second.
Dietzman is a junior and Wiker a sophomore, so it’s fair to expect some more state hardware for the duo.
Sequim and PA softball
With Port Angeles softball reloading after losing the best hitters in program history in slugger Natalie Steinman and leadoff-hitting speedster CC Robinson (and others) the door is cracked for Sequim to take back the upper hand in the softball version of the Rainshadow Rumble Rivalry series.
The Wolves did stop a 10-game skid against the Riders with a 6-5 nonleague win last May. That win, in the third game between the teams in 2018, didn’t count in the Olympic League standings, prolonging Port Angeles’ impressive 47-game league winning streak.
The rivals are set to play March 21 in Port Angeles and April 19 in Sequim.
Is there a state track champion this year?
Port Angeles’ Gracie Long capped off an outstanding prep career with a state championship in the Class 2A 1,600 meter girls run last spring.
Long is now running for Corban University in Oregon, but there are candidates for state championships this spring, including Long’s younger sister Millie.
As a freshman, Millie Long finished third in the 300 meter hurdles at state.
Another hurdler, Sequim boys senior Riley Martin placed third last spring in the 110 hurdles.
And Wolves senior javelin thrower Riley Cowan was fourth at state last season, so there’s potential for another Peninsula athlete to climb to the top of the podium at the state meet.
North Olympic Peninsula teams suffered heavy losses due to graduation, but talent remains.
Sequim, which came within a penalty-kick shootout of the state semifinals last season, returns junior forward Ryan Tolberd who set the team’s single-season goal-scoring mark with 21 goals last season, midfielders Michael McAleer and Sean Weber and Adrian Funston, all key cogs in last year’s success.
Port Angeles will need to find a new goalkeeper, but the Riders will have a solid back line with Hollund Bailey, Gabriel Long and Cameron Butler, and some scrap in midfield with Andrew St. George, Andrew Methner and Stuart Methner expected to see time.
Forks also has veterans returning after a solid run to the district tournament in 2018. The Spartans will get more time on the field this season as Class 2B schools Ilwaco and Raymond will play as part of the Evergreen League. That amounts to a 16-game regular season schedule this spring, a rise from an 11-game regular season in 2018.
Port Angeles and Forks kick off the season at 3 p.m. Saturday at Spartan Stadium in Forks.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]