PORT ANGELES — Pride was on the line when Port Angeles second baseman Peyton Rudd called the Roughriders together during their third-place district matchup with rival Sequim.
Having secured a state tournament berth the day prior, Port Angeles was a little fatigued after falling to Olympic to end the Riders’ hopes at the district title, and Sequim, a team with plenty of power of its own, had the momentum.
“It was our last game of the day, it was hot, everybody was a little burnt out,” Rudd said of the moment. “When I had the team get together, I said ‘I know it’s hot, we are tired, but we need to put it all together and push through these final few innings because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to lose to Sequim. We have more work to do.’ And we brought more energy after that, and we pulled it out.”
Rudd and the No. 8 Riders (19-3) will open state tournament play against No. 9 Ridgefield (22-1) today at noon in Selah.
No. 15 Sequim (13-8) opens the tournament at 10 a.m. against No. 2 W.F. West (19-4).
Rudd’s softball pedigree is undeniable. The Roughriders’ senior is the granddaughter of Jim Chaney, the former Peninsula College head coach back when Sigmar Field was a muddy morass.
“There’s tons of pictures with me as a little kid at the PC field with bats and balls in my hand,” Rudd said. I grew up with the sport, learning to love this sport, and started travel ball when I was 9. I was born into it. All of my mom’s side of the family played.”
Rudd’s been productive since she took over at second base as a freshman, hitting a home run during the team’s last trip to state in 2019.
“With Peyton, pretty much every routine ground ball is an out,” Port Angeles coach Randy Steinman said. “She’s worked on her backhand flip to shortstop all year long, planting foot and throwing hard to the base, and she’s just a solid all-around defensive player at second base.”
And she mashes at the plate as the Riders’ No. 3 hitter. Rudd hit .446 with nine home runs, 27 RBI, 26 runs, eight doubles and a triple.
“She produces so well in that No. 3 spot,” Steinman said. “Get Zoe [Smithson] and Lily [Halberg] on base, and it’s a perfect situation to have. Peyton sprays balls to the gap and hits some of the hardest ground balls to the 5-6 hole that I’ve seen. She gets on base sometimes because she hits the ball so hard that infielders can’t make the play.”
Rudd plans to hang up her cleats, maybe not after the Riders’ last game at state, but soon. She decided not to pursue college softball, although she’d be a lock to play for nearly every junior college or small four-year school in the state, Steinman said.
“I’m still playing a bit of summer ball,” Rudd said. “I just know I will never find a coach as great as Randy [Steinman], so I kind of want to leave my career behind with him. I want to focus on the beginning of the rest of my life, just kind of wanting to grow in that direction. I’m ready to move on, and the sport has taught me so much about how to be a good leader.”
With a mix of established seniors and up-and-coming freshmen, Rudd has enjoyed being a leader this season.
“I kind of embraced showing the other girls what to expect and how to lead a team,” Rudd said.
“But it’s totally a team effort, and it’s good to know everybody can show leadership on this team. My role is just as important as anybody else’s.”
Rudd has played alongside teammates Lily and Emi Halberg since they were 9 years old.
“She’s always brought a super team mom, leadership role,” Lily Halberg said. “She’s been our No. 1 leader this year, too. When high school came around, she moved to second base and really dominated that position and hit the ball all over the place.”
And next season, Rudd will be around to continue to offer advice for her younger sister Abby, who will be a freshman in 2022-23.
“It’s not mom and dad telling her what she needs to work on after games,” Rudd joked. “I’m excited to be able to watch her and keep seeing her grow. It’s bittersweet, but I love watching her play.”
And with a talented cast of youth players set to join the program and a number of experienced juniors set to return, Port Angeles softball should continue to compete at state for quite some time.
“The dynamic between all of the players. We all have such a good relationship and bond with each other,” Rudd said. “The attitudes are so great Encouraging each other. Continue playing with girls we have.
“The seniors have all talked together, and we have said we couldn’t be leaving the team in better hands.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at [email protected] news.com.