SPORTS: North Olympic 16U headed back to World Series

PORT ANGELES — After a one-year hiatus, the 16U North Olympic all star softball team is headed back to the Babe Ruth World series.

The team’s visit renews a tradition that went on for eight straight years from 2001-08, when North Olympic 16U softball teams took up permanent residence at the national championship.

Now that the all stars are back on the big stage, they’re ready to make some noise.

“It’s our last year, and this is really big,” starting first baseman Kelsey Hinsdale said.

“We all wanted to get back to the World Series, and we don’t get any second chances.”

“Everyone wants to get there. It’s everyone’s ultimate goal. It’s not just high school ball, it’s bigger. It’s where you can be seen.”

As the lone holdover from the ’08 squad, Hinsdale knows what she’s talking about.

She has participated in the Class 3A high school state softball tournament and two World Series events (one on the 12U team).

She’s also one of the more explosive bats in a lineup head coach Warren Stevens said compares well to the other four World Series teams he has coached.

“From our leadoff hitter to our No. 7 batter, any of them are capable of hitting it out of the park,” Stevens said.

“And they all are capable of hitting the ball hard.”

Hinsdale, Crysta Crouse, Mariah Frazier, Kearsten Cox, Lauren Aguirre and Savannah Johnson have all hit home runs for the 16U squad.

“I think our hitting is probably better than we had in years past,” Stevens said.

“[The lineup] probably matches our 2006 team.”

That’s pretty good company to be in, considering that team’s fourth-place finish tied for the top placement by a North Olympic team at the 16U World Series with the ’01 and ’02 squads.

This year’s edition might have the cards stacked against it more than any of the others that preceded it, however.

First, the team learned it would not get the benefit of staying with host families, meaning it would have to up the fundraising effort more than any other in the past.

Second, it got to play in only one tournament ­ ­– the Babe Ruth state championship, where it beat Mount Baker two out of three games to move on — prior to the Series.

By comparison, many of the other teams it will face have played in one every weekend this summer.

Third, North Olympic will open up play on Aug. 5 in Varina, Va., with a doubleheader . . . less than 24 hours after traveling across the country by plane.

And it will be under the sort of 90 to 100 degree heat not often encountered here on the Peninsula.

“They’ve overcome some adversity, and it just makes them more hungry,” Stevens said.

“It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen with this team. If they start clicking they could roll a long way.”

North Olympic had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde performance at state.

It began with a 12-0 thumping at the hands of Mount Baker before the squad quickly rebounded with ace pitcher Stacy Webb on the mound in games 2 and 3 for 6-2 and 8-0 victories punch its Series ticket.

“The first game I think we started out being too confident maybe,” Webb said.

The right-handed senior-to-be doesn’t see that happening once the all stars get to Virginia.

“I have a pretty good feeling that we’re going to go pretty far, because we have good focus and we bond well and work together as team,” said Webb, who has also played in a high school state tournament and a World Series.

“This team really has a drive to go far and win.”

Webb is one of five pitchers Stevens will be able to use, including Lauren Curtis, Mariah Frazier, Tori Holcomb and Savannah Johnson.

Those arms will surely be taxed by a round robin pool play schedule that has North Olympic playing four games in three days between Aug. 5-7.

If it can come out of that in the top three of its five-team pool, North Olympic will advance to a double elimination tournament.

And once it gets there, anything is possible.

“I think we have a really good chance,” Hinsdale said. “We all really want it.”

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