SPORTS: Port Angeles team heads to World Series

PORT ANGELES — This is one group of 12-year-old girls that most people would not want to meet in a dark alley.

The strength of the World Series-bound North Olympic 12U All-Star softball team is, well frankly, strength. These girls can pack a wallop.

“We have strong kids,” manager Randy Steinman said.

“Anyone on the team, from top to bottom, can hit a home run at any given time.”

The Port Angeles team, in 12 games, has hit a lot of home runs but they are spread throughout the lineup.

North Olympic, 11-1 in postseason play, earned a World Series berth by winning the state and regional championships, losing only in the semifinals of the double-elimination state tournament.

Most of the games were won by large margins.

Port Angeles opens World Series play Thursday at 3 p.m. (PDT) against New England in Wilson, N.C., which is about 45 minutes east of Raleigh.

Steinman feels good about his team’s chances at the World Series, and not just because Port Angeles is a physically powerful club.

North Olympic has a lot of strengths.

“We are fundamentally sound from top to bottom,” Steinman said. “We hit the ball well, we have good defense and we have good pitching.

“We have no superstars, but everyone contributes. Anyone can hit a home run or a single, or steal a base at any given time. That makes it really tough on the other team’s pitching.”

An umpire at the regional tournament told Steinman he was impressed with his team.

“He says, ‘You guys can hit,’ ” Steinman said. ” ‘When you started substituting, I thought, OK, the other team would start coming back. But your team just kept pouring it on.’ “

That’s because there’s not a lot of difference among the players in the lineup.

“All 12 girls can hit,” Steinman said.

Opposing teams don’t get a break when Steinman puts subs in the game.

Despite all that offense, though, defense will be the key at the World Series, which features 10 of the best teams in the country.

“If we can keep from making mistakes and giving up a big inning, we will do fine,” Steinman said.

“If the other team gets on base with a hit, they earned it. But we don’t want to give free passes such as walks and errors.”

So far, Port Angeles has avoided giving up many big innings. It has beaten its toughest competitor to date, Ellensburg, five out of six times.

Ellensburg beat North Olympic 9-8 in the state semifinals but Port Angeles won the championship game against the same team.

Olympic also beat Ellensburg 6-5 in the regional semifinals.

Port Angeles may be physically strong, but it’s also no lightweight in the classroom.

“This is a smart team with an average GPA probably of 4.0,” Steinman said. “This is a fun team to coach. They are smart on the base paths.”

The team includes the pitching staff of starters Sarah Steinman and Dusti Lucas, and reliever Hannah Stewart.

Stewart helps close out some games.

Haley Gray is the primary catcher while Holli Williams fills in as catcher at times.

“You need two catchers in hot weather,” Randy Steinman said.

And Steinman is expecting it to be hot in North Carolina for the World Series.

“It is 95 degrees with high humidity right now,” he said Monday. “I think we can handle the 90-degree temperature but it’s the humidity that might hurt us.”

Other Port Angeles players include first baseman Lois Harding, second baseman McKayla Cox, shortstop Stewart and third baseman Ashlee Reid.

In the outfield is Ralena Blackcrow in right, Lucas or Khason Politika in center and Williams or Cara Cristion in left.

Kim Hatfield also plays right field while Sarah Steinman plays first base when she isn’t pitching.

Coaches include Steve Gray and Bill Lammie. Natalie Steinman is the bat girl.

The team left for North Carolina when most people were sleeping this morning from Swain’s Port Angeles parking lot at 1:30 to catch a flight from Sea-Tac at 6 a.m.

The all-stars arrive in North Carolina today at 1:45 p.m. (PDT).

“We are the farthest team from the tournament,” Randy Steinman said. “We will arrive a day earlier than the other teams to have a day of rest.”

The World Series starts Thursday with opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. (PDT) and continues through Aug. 14.

There will be pool play with five teams in each pool. The top three teams of each pool advances to the six-team championship bracket.

Each team is guaranteed at least four games.

Port Angeles plans to play more than the minimum four games.

After all, these are not pushovers.

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