School rally a fitting tribute to state-champion — and unbeaten — Sequim softball team[**Gallery**]

SEQUIM — State championships are rare at Sequim High School.

That’s why it was a special event when the entire student body and staff honored the 2011 softball team, only the second team in school history to win state, at a rally in the gym Thursday morning.

This Wolves team will be etched in school memory not only for capturing a state title but also for doing something even harder: Earning perfection by going undefeated with a final 28-0 record.

It’s no secret why the Wolves were so good this year, first-year coach Joel Lewis said.

“They work together as a team and we have a solid lineup,” said Lewis, who is called Mama Jo by the team, the same nickname she had while helping coach the Peninsula College softball team.

Most players are still in a little bit of shock over winning state and the attention they are receiving.

“It feels kind of surreal,” senior second baseman Cindy Miller said.

“It hasn’t really settled in yet,” senior catcher Maddy Zbaraschuk said.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Maddy’s little sister, Rylleigh Zbaraschuk, said.

And even going undefeated can be a little unnerving, Miller added.

“Without a loss, it seems like we should still be playing this week,” she said.

This team has several firsts for the school, including winning the district softball tournament for the first time, becoming the first major-sport team to win a state championship and becoming the first team to go undefeated in the regular season, and sub-district, district and state action.

The memories will stay with these players for a lifetime.

“This is the best feeling in the world,” junior starting pitcher Demiree Briones said. “I’m still in shock.

“Even when I’m old, the feeling is not going to wear off.”

Several players, including Briones and two-time Olympic League MVP Lea Hopson, said they were looking forward to telling their own future children and grandchildren first-hand the story of this special season.

“And I’ll have photos to show them,” Hopson, the senior shortstop, said.

“I’m hopeful my kid will win a state championship, too,” Briones said.

If she has any daughters, Briones added, they will be playing softball.

There’s nothing like going through a championship season alongside your sister, who is also your best friend.

“The biggest thing about this season, for me, is going through it with Maddy in her last year,” Rylleigh Zbaraschuk said.

The two have played softball and other sports together since they were little.

“We hang out all the time and we’re best friends,” Rylleigh Zbaraschuk said.

Maddy, the clean-up batter on a hard-hitting team that had six home runs in a single state game, said the Wolves proved themselves at state.

“I think we showed that we’re not a fluke,” she said. “All the games were close, and we played all good teams.”

The easiest game was in the quarterfinals against Othello, where the Wolves smacked six bombs for a 14-7 victory.

“Othello had a really flat pitcher with no movement on the ball [that the Wolves were able to key off on],” Maddy Zbaraschuk said.

Hopson and Rylleigh Zbaraschuk hit two out of the ball park each.

Rylleigh hit one from each side of the plate.

“Rylleigh got us going with a home run right off the bat in the first inning,” Maddy Zbaraschuk said.

Rylleigh is the leadoff batter because of her speed. But her base running is not the only thing that Rylleigh is quick at.

“Rylleigh has speed on the left side and power on the right,” Maddy said. “She has really fast hands.”

The Wolves had a couple of scares at state but came through in flying colors.

They had a 10-3 lead against Lynden in the first round but gave up seven runs in the sixth inning to make it a 10-10 game.

Sequim scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth and then held on for the 12-10 victory.

“I don’t know what happened but I had no snap in my arm,” Briones, who pitched the first 5 1/3 innings, said.

Freshman McKayla Bentz came off the bench to throw the final 1 2/3 innings to keep Lynden at bay.

“McKayla came in the sixth and saved me,” Briones said.

The Wolves won at state in many ways, including long-ball hitting, a 2-1 pitchers’ duel Briones won against Ellensburg in the championship game and Bentz, the smallest player on the team, coming in to save the day against Lynden.

“I’m still proud of McKayla going out in that first game and winning it for us,” Hopson said. “If it wasn’t for McKayla in that first game, we would not have won state.”

That game was special for Hopson because she considers McKayla a little sister.

“I have always been close to her and her family,” Hopson said. “I am really good friends with McKayla. It’s like my second family.”

Will there will be an encore for the Wolves next year?

Despite losing three key starters to graduation in Hopson, Maddy Zbaraschuk and Miller, returning players and coach Lewis are confident about another run to state in 2012.

“Sequim will still have great girls next year,” Lewis said.

“Next year we will try to get back to state,” Rylleigh Zbaraschuk said. “We will try to win state again, but I will miss my sister, Maddy, Lea and Cindy.”

Briones also will be missing the current group of seniors.

“It’s going to be really weird on the first day of tryouts without Maddy, Lea and Cindy there,” she said.

Briones also believes that the Wolves will have a second straight shot at state.

“We will do well, especially if Rylleigh plays shortstop for us.”

Rylleigh is fearless around the ball and would be a good addition to the infield defense, Briones explained.

“Rylleigh will stop any ball,” she said. “She’s not afraid to dive for the ball and she’s not afraid of the ball.”

Rylleigh, a speedster who roamed center field this year, said “I love the outfield but I will play anywhere to help the team.

“If Mama Jo wants me to play shortstop, I will to help the team.”

Lewis, meanwhile, wasn’t comfortable about talking about next year’s lineup.

She was still enjoying that championship feeling.

There’s no doubt that the 2012 team will be aiming to add to the lore of the 2011 Wolves.

________

Sports Editor Brad ­LaBrie can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]

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