LACEY — As far as dilemmas go, the one facing Port Angeles senior center fielder Sierra (CC) Robinson is relatively minor.
With the Roughriders softball team a district win away from the program’s sixth straight state tournament appearance, Robinson has just about maxed out the available space on her letter jacket.
The jacket is filled with patches celebrating academic honors recognizing Robinson’s academic acheivements as well as her athletic exploits as a member of the Port Angeles girls soccer team that made back-to-back state tournament appearances the last two seasons and the Riders’ standout softball program.
“I don’t have any more space on my letterman’s jacket for another state patch,” Robinson said. “But I’ll find room.”
She’ll have to find at least two spots if the the Riders (17-3) can get past a second-round district matchup at noon Friday against the winner of a first-round contest between Steilacoom and Washington at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey.
One for another state trip, as Port Angeles seeks to improve upon its incredible 82-10 (.891) overall record over the past four seasons, and the other for the Class 2A academic state championship the Riders, with a 3.838 team GPA, earned for the 2018 spring season.
On the softball diamond, Robinson has filled up box scores for the Riders in the same way she’s plastered that jacket with hard-earned patches and piled up A’s in the classroom.
Port Angeles’ leadoff hitter the past three seasons, Robinson has improved at the plate, as the speedster has added extra-base range to her ability to motor around the basepaths after well-placed bunts and slap hits.
“I’ve been working really hard on my hitting because I felt that I had my bunting and slapping down, but the hitting last year, the confidence wasn’t really there,” Robinson said. “But I worked hard on improving and now its just another weapon that I get to use.”
She’s hitting .521 (38 for 73) through 20 games, with 19 stolen bases and 34 runs.
Riders coach Randy Steinman said Robinson has become even more intimidating at the plate this season.
“If teams want to play tight, CC can say, ‘Come and take my bunt away,’ I’ll smash it past it you,” he said.
“Especially senior night, that stroke to right-center [a triple in a 13-0 win over Kingston] was just gorgeous. We tried to stretch it into a home run but that wasn’t happening.”
Robinson puts pressure on opposing pitchers from her first at-bat. She’s a threat to lay down a bunt nearly anywhere in the field and beat out throws to first. And when she gets on base, she inflicts damage, with the potential to steal bases and score on nearly every play.
“Now she just reads the infield herself when she comes up to bat,” Steinman said. Whether she needs to bunt, slap, or swing away. And obviously, being a 4.0 student she’s smart enough to figure things out. In pregame, she watches the third baseman’s arm to see how strong she is and to know who to pick on when she bunts the ball.
“You see her running the bases, she’s just so smart out there. There’s no hesitation, she gets on and if there’s an overthrow she’s at second before the other team even realizes a mistake was made. She’s never satisfied, she always wants more. And she’s always playing out scenarios like ‘How can I get from first to third on a bunt, how can I take that little extra advantage?’ She opens up so many opportunities for the team and not just herself.”
Mentally proccessing in-game scenarios at once and turning it into physical action is one of her favorite aspects of softball.
“That’s one of the things I like most about the game, there’s so many things going on at once and you always want to be one step ahead,” she said.
Robinson is part of a veritable sisterhood of the slap hitters for Port Angeles, the next player in line after Carly Gouge graduated in 2015 after a standout career as leadoff hitter and center fielder for the Riders.
Slap hitting is primarily designed to give left-handed hitters like Robinson a running start down the base path toward first base, allowing them to beat out infield hits before fielders can throw them out.
“She was next in line, no question [after Carly Gouge graduated in 2015],” Steinman said. “We’ve got Ella [Holland], we’ve got Camille [Stensgard] and CC mentors them just by them watching what she does and explaining to them that you have to have that attack-dog mentality.” That there is a piece of raw meat at second base and you are an attack dog and you are going to get that thing no matter what. When you watch her play, it’s just inspiring. I hear from people all around town that what that No. 6 did in the game last night was amazing.”
“And she’s really become a leader this year, too. She’ll come out in a huddle or at the end of practice and she’ll inspire the kids with a quote.”
Robinson said her play has has been inspired by Gouge.
“She taught me so much, she’s definitely a mentor,” Robinson said.
And Robinson said she looks to pass on some of those same diamond insights to her fellow outfielders.
“Yeah, definitely, I try to teach them what she taught me and do some of the quirky things that she did when she was the center fielder,” she said. “We always meet in the middle [of the outfield] to throw down and I give them advice like Carly did with me.”
Robinson said that the advice changes based on the situation, but it can run from inspirational to serious to silly.
And using smaller acheivement patches for letter jackets could be a good piece of advice to follow going forward for Port Angeles players.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]