SPORTS: Sequim softball team seeking perfection at 2A state tournament by winning championship

SEQUIM — One more historical first would put a perfect cap on an unblemished Sequim softball season.

The 2011 Wolves already have accomplished two things that no other Sequim softball team has done.

That leaves only one goal left.

So far the Wolves have gone undefeated through the regular season, sub-district and district tournament play.

No other Sequim team has started a season 22-0.

In addition, no Wolves squad has won the district championships until this year.

“We’re very proud of winning districts for the first time,” Demiree Briones, the team’s ace pitcher and one of its top hitters, said.

“They should be proud because they have worked very hard all year,” first-year head coach Joel Lewis said about her team.

That’s two feathers for the team’s cap.

A final shining feather

That just leaves the final feather, which is the grandest of them all and the ultimate goal of every team.

The Wolves have never won a state championship in any major sport, boys or girls.

And right now they are just four victories away from winning it all in Class 2A softball.

These confident Wolves are planning on bringing some hardware back to Sequim.

“Of course, like all the teams left, we are striving for the highest goal, to win state,” Lewis, an assistant softball coach at Peninsula College until the program was closed down last year, said.

“And why not aim for the state championship?,” she added. “This team deserves this opportunity.”

And the extra pressure of going into state with a perfect record shouldn’t weigh on the Wolves, Lewis said.

“I feel confident that we are going to play pretty well,” she said. “I think people want to beat us, but I just think we are really strong.”

Briones, the junior starting pitcher who is 19-0 on the year as the Wolves’ workhorse on the mound, is expecting Sequim to battle for it all.

“It will be hard to beat us if we stay focused,” Briones said.

Action starts at 10 a.m.

The Wolves, who open state play today against Lynden at 10 a.m. in Selah’s Carlon Park, last played in state two years ago when they captured eighth place.

Briones, who was a freshman, and seniors Lea Hopson, Cindy Miller and Maddy Zbaraschuk, who were sophomores on that team, remember the two losses from that 2-2 showing well.

“Colville totally crushed us,” Briones said.

Colville won that first-round game 12-1 and then Anacortes shaded Sequim 11-10 in the consolation third round.

The Wolves can’t get revenge on Colville because the Indians aren’t in state this year, but Anacortes could be lurking in the semifinals if Sequim and Anacortes win its first two games.

The Wolves would love the rematch.

Lynden and maybe archrival Port Angeles stand in the Wolves’ way for that semifinal meeting.

Lynden, their first opponent, is Anacortes’ archrival.

“Lynden is Anacortes’ Port Angeles,” Maddy Zbaraschuk said.

The Wolves could face the Roughriders for the fourth time this year if Port Angeles beats Othello in the first round and Sequim defeats Lynden.

That would pit the two rivals against each other in the quarterfinals today at 4 p.m.

And the fourth time won’t be the charm for the Riders if the two teams meet, Briones said.

“We’re not worried. We have already beaten them three times,” she said.

Port Angeles, 19-3, has lost only to the Wolves this year.

Powerhouse

There is no easy way to beat this Sequim team.

The lineup, top to bottom, is powerful. Most Sequim batters can smack the ball like nobody’s business.

The team has more than 25 home runs on the year with No. 3 hitter Hopson leading the way with nine.

Cleanup batter Maddy Zbaraschuk is right behind with eight while Briones, the No. 5 hitter, has four.

In addition, there is elite speed at the top of the lineup and the defense is solid. And then there is Briones’ arm that helps keep opposing teams’ batters in check.

A secret weapon of this long-ball team is speed.

Power hitting Hopson can streak around the bases, and leadoff hitter Rylleigh Zbaraschuk has blazing speed while No. 2 batter Miller also is hard to catch on the base paths.

“We have a lot of team speed,” Hopson said.

Hopson uses her own speed a lot after she is given free passes by way of intentional walks. And she receives a lot of intentional walks.

In one game against Port Angeles, the Roughriders opted to send her to first base three straight at bats.

“I get on and then Maddy crushes the ball,” Hopson said. “I get on second and then Maddy gets me in.”

“I love it when that happens,” Briones said. “Lea will be walked and then Maddy brings her home.”

While teams are worried about Sequim’s version of murderers’ row, Miller is quietly and effectively getting on base consistently ahead of the big hitters.

“Cindy is a killer slap-hitter,” Briones said. “When we need a hit, she gets it. She really comes through.”

When the Wolves need a run or to start a rally, Miller slaps the ball into a gap to get on base.

“I just know I have to get on base,” Miller said. “The batters behind me get me home.”

Briones remembers at least two times that Miller got the Wolves going.

“Cindy had key hits against Steilacoom and Port Angeles,” Briones said. “She had a great drag bunt against Port Angeles to get on base.”

Teams looking for a soft spot in Sequim’s lineup will be disappointed, Lewis said.

All nine Sequim starters have a batting average of .300 or better this season.

“We are strong down the whole batting order,” she added. “From one to nine, we are all strong.”

Maddy Zbaraschuk, who hit .720 in Olympic League games, said she has never seen such a strong hitting team before.

“We don’t have an obvious weakness in our lineup.”

And if that’s not daunting enough, teams also struggle to find any holes in the Sequim defense.

“We’re really strong defensively,” Hopson said.

Winning going away

This team just didn’t win districts, they mangled the competition, going 3-0 and beating every team by at least 10 runs.

But that’s been the calling card of this hard-hitting team, which has won via the 10-run mercy rule 18 times this year.

After having a couple of closer games against the Riders during the league season, the Wolves beat them 15-4 in six innings at districts.

Coming out on fire was the key to that game.

“We scored five runs in the first inning and that set the tone,” Briones said.

The state tournament, which runs today through Saturday, could be a history-making trip for the Wolves.

Perfection is not that much of a long shot for them.

________

Sports Editor Brad ­LaBrie can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at brad.labrie@peninsuladailynews.com.

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