PORT ANGELES — Defense was the biggest difference as Port Angeles softball got back on the right track with an important 9-1 win over North Kitsap on Friday at Dry Creek Elementary.
Oh, and the Roughriders also ran the bases aggressively, were patient at the plate against promising Vikings’ freshman pitcher Makayla Stockman and hit a couple of late-inning home runs, including a grand slam by Olivia Nevaril, for insurance purposes.
But it was the defense that dazzled on the diamond.
Fresh off a five-error performance in a 14-12 loss to Olympic that was so out of character that it ended its 50-game Olympic League win streak, Port Angeles made plays all over the diamond in Friday’s win.
“It was a different team out there,” Riders coach Randy Steinman said. “We still hit the ball like we did [vs. Olympic] but you saw the defense, it was phenomenal and it wasn’t there on Wednesday. And our baserunning was phenomenal and it wasn’t on Wednesday. And those two things right there were the difference.”
The win, coupled with Olympic’s 7-3 win over Sequim, leaves Port Angeles, North Kitsap and Olympic in a three-way tie for first at 4-1 in league play.
In Friday’s win, the defensive plays came from up-and-down the Riders’ roster.
Freshman catcher Zoe Smithson was on target early, throwing out a runner attempting to steal second base, followed by a snap throw to third that trapped a Vikings baserunner in a pickle to end North Kitsap’s scoring threat in the second inning. Madi Roening added two nifty nabs in right field, including a sliding grab on a blooper.
“I hadn’t played outfield in a really long time, so those catches boosted my confidence in myself and gave me a little boost to get me going [at the plate],” Roening said.
“We definitely came out tonight and were ready.”
Second baseman Hope O’Connor ranged right on a hard-hit grounder and threw across her body for an out. O’Connor later came on in relief and got the Riders out of a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth by catching a popup and then quickly noticing a Viking baserunner off the 3rd base bag for a bang-bang double play.
Maybe the best play of all found Ella Holland racing to the gap in right-center field and fully extending in stride to save two runs on a lined shot that had extra-base hit written all over it with Port Angeles up 3-1 in the fifth.
It took a couple of innings for the Riders’ bats to figure out Stockman, a pitcher that leads with a fastball, but also throws a changeup so slow it feels like a hitter could swing twice before the pitch reached the plate.
“That changeup was crazy,” Roening said. “When you are up to bat it looks like it is coming in at your eye level and then it just dropped and dropped right into the strike zone.
“I think it was not only our mindset [at the plate], but the speed. I don’t know if we were not expecting it or what, but once we saw her speed we gained confidence.”
Smithson had another big game at the plate for Port Angeles, going 3 for 3 with a walk and an RBI.
Roening’s RBI double in the third gave the Riders the lead at 2-1.
Port Angeles takes 2-1 lead on North Kitsap on this Madi Roening RBI single. 2-1 end 3. pic.twitter.com/EJsEbdwojP
— Michael Carman (@MikeCarmanPDN) April 12, 2019
An inning later, O’Connor doubled over the head of the North Kitsap left fielder to drive in Lucah Folden and put Port Angeles up 3-1.
Roening then opened the fifth with a solo home run and later drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk for a 5-1 advantage. That brought up Olivia Nevaril who deposited a two-strike pitch by Vikings reliever Sarah Smith into left field for a grand slam.
Olivia Nevaril hits a grand slam HR w 2 down in b6 gives PA a 9-1 lead on North Kitsap. pic.twitter.com/RbB9HiZcrn
— Michael Carman (@MikeCarmanPDN) April 13, 2019
“We made a switch tonight and it worked out,” Steinman said of Roening playing right field. “She comes in and makes a sliding, diving catch and another one that’s over her head. And then she hits a home run and draws a 10-pitch walk to set up Olivia for the grand salami. What more can you ask for?
O’Connor pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning to seal her two clean innings in relief and cap the Riders’ return to their winning ways.
Port Angeles (4-1, 5-4) will step out of Olympic League play to visit perennial district opponent White River in a nonleague contest Wednesday. The Riders visit Sequim on Friday.
Port Angeles 9, North Kitsap 1
NK 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1
PA 0 0 2 1 1 5 X — 9
WP: Kiana Watson-Charles LP: Makayla Stockman
North Kitsap: Stockman 5IP, 6R, 1oH, 2BB, 3K; Smith IP, 2H, 2R,
Port Angeles: Watson-Charles 5IP, R, 7H, 4BB, 3K; O’Connor 2IP, 2K.
North Kitsap: Samantha Burgh 2-3; Iyreland Lawson 1-2, BB, 2B; Alicia Goetz 1-3, BB, R; Genevieve Keller 1-3.