PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles 12U all-star softball team bunted its way through state and regional tournaments, and now will take its small-ball act to Florida this week.
Undefeated Port Angeles, 12-0 while winning state and regional competition, will be one of the top 10 teams in the country playing at the 2012 Babe Ruth Softball World Series starting Saturday.
This is the third Port Angeles team to be playing in the ultimate tournament at this age level and the second for manager Randy Steinman.
Steinman took the 2009 team to the World Series in North Carolina with his daughter, Sarah, who pitches for the Port Angeles High School varsity team now.
This time he is taking his younger daughter, Natalie, and a whole team of outstanding players to Alachua and High Springs, Fla., that will start tourney play Saturday and end Aug. 8.
“This team is completely different from the 2009 World Series-team,” Steinman said.
The 2009 version was a team of power hitters.
“Seven of our nine hitters on that team could hit the ball to the fences and beyond the fences,” Steinman said.
For the 2012 version, welcome to the Port Angeles version of small ball.
“We do a lot of bunting, hit-and-run, and we really focus on our defense and team speed,” Steinman said.
That speed is evident in base running as well as outfield defense. Those holes to hit the ball in the Port Angeles outfield are awfully small.
“We have great speed in the outfield,” Steinman said.
“They caught some balls in regionals that I didn’t think they would get to.
“On this team, we focus more on the little things.”
The identity of this team, is well, team.
There are no individual stars playing for Port Angeles, Steinman emphasized.
“It’s team effort the whole way,” he said. “We have great team unity and we rely on the whole team.”
That way if one player is having an off day, another player will pick the team up by having a good day, he added.
These players do all the little things that makes this team a well-oiled machine.
“This team is very well disciplined,” Steinman said.
“When the coaches give them a sign to bunt on the first-base side, they can put the bunt down on the first-base side.
“They know their roles on the team, and they do them well.”
The feeling of togetherness runs deep for these girls.
“They are great friends and they keep each other up during games,” Steinman said.
A vocal group, these Port Angeles athletes encourage each other as they play.
Another hallmark for Port Angeles is stellar defense, which starts with the four pitchers, who do not throw world-class heat but hit their spots well and don’t walk batters.
A stand-out defense on the field helps keep other teams from outscoring them.
That defense is at its strongest when either Nizhoni Wheeler or Callie Hall are at the mound.
That’s because the second-tier of pitchers, Ashlynn Uvila and Natalie Steinman — are at their field positions — shortstop and second base, respectively.
“The strength of the defense is up the middle,” Steinman said. “We have our best defense when Nizhoni or Callie are pitching.”
Wheeler stands out in this group of four rock-solid pitchers. She is a participant on some select basketball as well as softball teams.
“She is just a great athlete,” Steinman said.
Despite this being the first major trip for most of these incoming seventh and eighth graders, Steinman is expecting this group to play well at the World Series.
“They know when they step inside the fences that they will focus on nothing but hard work, and will give their best effort for two hours,” Steinman said.
“We have had no major problems with that.”
Port Angeles has a good shot at making noise in Florida thanks to some of the competition it faced at state and regionals, according to Steinman.
“We won’t face a pitcher that is any faster than the Hoquiam pitcher we faced at regionals,” he said.
“A fast pitcher has control problems and will walk batters at times.”
Any team that walks or otherwise puts Port Angeles runners on the base paths will have its hands full.
“As long as we play good defense and don’t walk batters, we can play with anybody,” Steinman said.
“We’re going to win it.”
Steinman, who is managing his fifth all-star team, the second consecutive 12U squad, gets assistance for this team from coaches Jeff Lunt and Steve Uvila.
Uvila’s son and Ashlynn’s brother, Cole, is playing for Wilder in the 16-18 Babe Ruth Baseball World Series this week in Weimar, Texas.
Steve Uvila is in Weimar watching his son play, and will fly from there to Florida to help coach his daughter’s team when the 16-18 tourney is finished.
Members of the World-Series bound 12U softball team are Sierra Wilson, Nikaila Price, Callie Hall, Kylee Reid, Brennan Gray, Natalie Steinman,Lauren Lunt, Halaina Ferguson, Ashlynn Uvila, Sierra Robinson, Emily Boyd and Nizhoni Wheeler.
The team is leaving Port Angeles at 7:30 a.m. Thursday from Swain’s General Store parking lot, 602 E. First St.Dungeness (Bus) Line is taking the team to the airport, and will bring it back from the airport at the end of the World Series trip.