PORT ANGELES — For many freshmen, its more about surviving that initial year as a high schooler than thriving.
Not for Port Angeles softball player Zoe Smithson. Smithson is thriving all over the diamond thus far for the Roughriders, who face rival Sequim today on the road at 4:15 p.m.
“We can’t ask much more from her than what she has done,” Port Angeles coach Randy Steinman said. “Like you said, she’s crushing the ball. I’ve had her play outfield, I’ve had her play infield and now she’s behind the plate and she’s done a phenomenal job back there. And that’s her main position, she’s a catcher.”
Smithson opened the season lower in the batting order, but is now hitting in the No. 2 spot for Port Angeles (4-1, 5-4).
In her last two Olympic League outings against Olympic and North Kitsap, Smithson is a combined 6 for 8 in that slot with two runs, a walk, a triple, two doubles and an RBI.
“She plays like a veteran, she does not play like a freshman,” Steinman said. “There is no fear, whatsover in her, whether its at the plate, on the bases or behind the plate. Zoe is very confident.”
Riders junior Madi Roening agreed with her head coach and said she and Smithson, who both play the same positions, have grown close since the season started.
”As a freshman she is bringing a lot of confidence,” Roening said. “She’s super funny and her outgoing personality helps with the team a lot. She’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. We are switching off between right field and catching, so through that we’ve gotten really tight this year.
“She was quiet in the beginning of the season, but once we cracked the shell she’s just been so witty and outgoing.
“She’s done a great job in adapting to an older team, even if we only have two seniors, we have a lot of juniors. Her and [freshman] Peyton [Rudd] do a really good job of leading the younger players.”
League on the rise
The Riders have needed Smithson’s help in the Olympic League playoff chase. The league, which sent three teams to the Class 2A state tournament last season, looks likely to equal or even improve upon that number again this season.
“No question they have [all improved],” Steinman said of Olympic League opponents.
North Kitsap (6-1, 8-3) currently leads the league by virtue of playing two more league contests than second-place Port Angeles and Olympic (4-1, 9-3). And it’s a real logjam at the top as the Riders have beaten North Kitsap and lost to Olympic, while the Trojans beat the Vikings in their first matchup.
“North Kitsap is mostly seniors, they’ve been building this team since they were eighth graders,” Steinman said. “This is their big year and they are good. The pitcher [Makayla Stockman] is a freshman. Their program is on the rise.
“Olympic has a great pitcher and a great catcher, a freshman catcher, and they hit the crap out of the ball, too.
“And Sequim’s good. And then us. Four good teams, really good teams that I think will compete quite well with the South Puget Sound League [at districts], I can tell you that.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]