POULSBO — In some years, the powerhouse Port Angeles softball team simply dominates their opponents.
This year’s undefeated team has made a specialty out of erupting late in games and coming from behind.
The Roughriders used that “Never say die” mentality to gut out a hard-fought 6-2 win in blustery conditions on the road Saturday against North Kitsap, usually one of the Riders’ toughest rivals in the Olympic 2A League.
The final score is a bit misleading as the Riders were down or tied most of the game. They finally put the contest out of reach with four runs in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach and improve their record to 6-0.
The Riders this season have won three games in walkoffs and after Friday’s win, have won four games in the final inning.
“A lot of it is just not getting down on ourselves,” said catcher Zoe Smithson, who had a two-run home run in the win.
“It’s been kind of our trend this season,” said Lily Halberg, who had a fantastic game in the field for the Riders.
“The girls do not give up,” said coach Randy Steinman. “Confidence is a huge part opf it. They’re confident they can put the bat on the ball and put the ball in play.”
The Riders needed that confidence against the Vikings’ Makayla Stockman, who struck out 10 Riders and other than one big Smithson swing, kept them off-balance through six innings.
Port Angeles got a few runners on through the early innings, but had trouble breaking through against Stockman. The Vikings held a 1-o lead into the top of the fifth inning when Smithson gave the Riders a brief lead with her home run in the fifth inning that made it over the center field fence in the swirling winds.
Smithson said she simply waited for the right pitch to hit her home run.
“She was pitching outside a lot and I just stayed ready for that,” Smithson said.
The Riders could have been down by at least a couple of runs in the seventh inning if not for a pair of stellar plays by Lily Halberg in right field. On the first play in the first running, Halberg went back to the fence and made a leaping catch to rob a North Kitsap hitter of extra bases — and possibly a home run.
Halberg made an even better play in the fourth. With a runner on third, North Kitsap hit a long fly ball to deep right. Halberg gunned a strong throw to Smithson at the plate. The runner at third tried to tag up and score, but Smithson already had the ball and had her out by a mile, forcing her back to third. Smithson made a perfect throw to third baseman Taylor Worthington to tag the runner out.
“I know Lily’s arm and I knew it would be close,” Steinman said.
North Kitsap was able to break through with a run in the bottom of the fifth to tie it at 2-2.
The big rally in the seventh started quietly with a Teagan Clark walk. Smithson hit a solid single, then on a 3-2 count, Jada Cargo-Acosta drew a walk to load the bases. Ava Brenkman drove in Clark with an infield single.
Payton Rudd hit a shallow fly ball to left field, and Smithson was fast enough to tag up and come home. Worthington then hit a clutch two-run single into the outfield to blow the game open.
Clark pitched 6 1/3 innings to pick up the win while Cheyenne Zimmer got the final two outs to preserve the victory.
The Riders say they don’t really talk about going undefeated this season and are just happy to be able to play after COVID-19 completely shut down all spring sports last year.
“It definitely puts a target on us,” Steinman said.
“We’re just glad to be playing,” Smithson said.