SPORTS: Port Angeles jumps into softball World Series fire

PORT ANGELES — The North Olympic 16U Babe Ruth all-star team is no stranger to the World Series.

The Port Angeles-based team will play in the 2011 World Series beginning Friday and lasting through Aug. 13 in Lamar, Colo.

This is the second year in a row and the fifth time in the past six years that Port Angeles will be in the national showcase event.

It is also the sixth team that manager Warren Stevens will be taking to the World Series since 2004.

Against top national competition, North Olympic struggles at times to get out of pool play and into the championship bracket.

The best finish was in 2006 when the area team captured fourth place.

“There are a lot of good teams in a World Series, so it is the time to play well and to get a little luck,” Stevens said.

Port Angeles ran into some bad luck in 2007 in Texas when the team won two games but still didn’t get out of pool play.

“You had to win three games just to get in the tournament,” Stevens said.

One of the toughest tournaments for Port Angeles was in Pittsfield, Mass., in 2008.

“We ran into unbelievable competition,” Stevens said.

“Our pitchers were throwing an average 53 miles-per-hour while opposing pitchers were throwing 64,” Stevens said.

“They would tell their batters when they were playing us, ‘stand in back of the box and wait for it, wait for it, wait for

it.’ ”

This year might be a little different, though, because for once Port Angeles had to battle its way through state and regional tournaments just to secure a World Series berth.

A breeze

In past years, North Olympic usually breezed through Pacific Northwest competition.

Hoquiam, especially, gave Port Angeles problems.

North Olympic won four of the six games between the two rivals but most of the games were close.

“Hoquiam was real strong,” Stevens said. “That actually helped us.”

North Olympic could have one of the youngest teams this year with only four 16 year olds on the roster.

The team might have only three in Lamar because standout incoming Port Angeles High School senior Mariah Frazier may miss it because of a medical issue in her family, Stevens said.

“She might make the trip but we just don’t know yet. We have a ticket for her just in case but we understand if she can’t make it.”

Other incoming senior Roughriders on the team are pitcher first baseman and outfielder Lauren Curtis, second baseman Tori Holcomb and third baseman Kearsten Cox.

This team has as much talent as earlier North Olympic squads, Stevens said, but will just be younger with four 15 year olds and four 14 year olds.

“We have a great group of girls,” Stevens said.

“They’re young but they hit the ball well and play good fundamentals. Talent-wise we are just as good as past teams.”

Curtis agrees that the youthfulness of the team won’t affect World Series play.

“We’re younger but it doesn’t matter,” Curtis said. “All the younger girls are really good.”

Kearston Cox, whose younger sister, McKayla, also is on the team, agrees about the talent level.

“We’re all pretty strong players,” she said. “We’re young but we have a lot of spunk.”

What’s important to the veteran tourney players is getting out of pool play this time.

“Last year we lost early,” Holcomb said. “We played only three games.”

“We want to play them all this year,” Curtis added.

The Richmond, Va., heat helped wear Port Angeles down in 2010. It averaged 108 degrees most days.

History does seem to repeat itself as it has been averaging 108 degrees in Lamar this past week.

The most recent forecast, however, predicts a “cool” 98 degrees on the first day of pool play Saturday.

Stevens is concerned about the heat because he will have only 11 players in Lamar if Frazier can’t make the trip when he usually takes 14 to the World Series.

“The heat is going to take some of the wind out of your sail,” Stevens said.

“It will be interesting. We have to keep the players hydrated.”

A strength of this team is carrying two equal pitchers on the roster.

“We don’t have a No. 1 pitcher,” Stevens said.

Curtis shares throwing duties with incoming sophomore Sarah Steinman, who pitched for the Port Angeles JV team in spring.

“They complement each other,” Stevens said about the two.

Curtis backed up ace Stacy Webb on the Rider team but is looking forward of taking over the No. 1 role and pitching more in 2012.

Both Curtis and Steinman average a speed of 53 mph and throw a change-up, a drop and the fastball.

Port Angeles opens tourney play at 10 a.m. PDT against Lodi, Calif., on Saturday and ends play on that first day at 7 p.m. against host Lamar.

“We will go there, we will do what we do and hope for the best,” Stevens said.

The team raised $3,000 for the trip from a car wash and bake sale last Saturday.

“The community really stepped up,” Stevens said.

“Community support has been huge. The community always steps up.”

________

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

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