Sports

Gloves, speed key to Wolves' diamond hopes

This wolf pack may have been able to sneak up on foes before, but not any longer.

Not after earning tickets to the state tournament four of the past six seasons.

Playing a bit in the shadow of Olympic League powerhouse North Mason for years, Sequim is poised to turn some heads around the region once again with what their coach calls one of the most balanced teams in recent history.

"I think we're going to be strong," says coach Mel Hendrickson, as he scanned the Sequim High softball field and the two-dozen players racing around the base paths.

"We've always been strong offensively (but) we've got good, solid pitching and we have four lefty (batters) with speed. Offensively, we're going to shock some people."

That offense starts with the fleet-footed. Lefty hitters Cindy Miller, Lauren Hendrickson, Kinzie Winfield and freshman

Rylleigh Zbaraschuk give the Wolves potency on the bases.

Maddy Zbaraschuk, Sequim's slugging catcher, and shortstop Lea Hopson make up the heart of the middle of Sequim's batting order. Both juniors were named to the all-Olympic League first team last season.

Senior Chelsea Winfield (second team all-league infielder) and sophomore Demiree Briones bring big bats to the lineup and will share pitching responsibilities, Hendrickson said.



Briones on the mound

But the likely No. 1 is Briones, a hard-throwing hurler who wound up earning two wins at the state tournament in 2009. Briones was named an all-league honorable mention as a freshman last spring.Sequim's hurlers have plenty of wise words to rely on when they run into trouble with the addition of assistant coach Jessica Rosencrants, a former league MVP during her stint at Sequim High (2004, 2005) and star pitcher at Western Washington University and Peninsula College.

Last season, the Wolves finished 13-7, third in the Olympic League 2A ranks, before going 2-1 at districts to earn the third and final berth into state.

At the 2A tourney,

Sequim upended Blaine and Pullman in the consolation brackets before falling to Anacortes by a single run in the consolation final, settling for eighth place.

Mel Hendrickson said the Wolves should benefit from having that kind of tournament experience.

"They know what it takes to play at that level, it gives them a goal, to get back to state and it gives them desire," he says. "They have a good time (at state)."





Baseball: No longer rebuilding, experienced Sequim squad is a contender

MICHAEL DASHIELL

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In just one season, Sequim's Wolves transformed from the new pups on the block to one of the top dogs.

This year, says their head coach, it's time to show the league 2009 wasn't a fluke.

"I have high expectations for this team," says coach Dave Ditlefsen, who helped lead Sequim to the state tournament last spring for the first time in 12 years.

"There's no excuse anymore that this is a young team," he says. "(But) I think there's a hunger to get back to the state tournament, a nice level of focus."

Much of that focus must come from a stable of upperclassmen with plenty of experience.

It starts with co-captain Alex Gillis, a hard-throwing senior southpaw who led the team with four wins and 53 strikeouts on the mound. At the plate, Gillis hit .304, drove in 11 runs and had a .475 on-base percentage.

His fellow captain, senior Matt Bereiter, didn't even have a starting job last season but simply worked himself in. By season's end, he was the team's No. 2 pitcher and clean-up hitter, hitting .360 in limited at-bats. He also threw a key, 1-0 shutout against Washington to keep the Wolves alive in the district playoffs.

"(Matt's) work ethic, the time and energy he devoted to baseball, it showed last year," Ditlefsen said.

Back from a stellar 2009 campaign is junior outfielder Drew Rickerson. Sequim's top hitter led the Wolves with 18 RBIs, 23 runs scored and 26 hits and he nabbed 17 steals in 17 tries. He hit .356 at the plate.

Second baseman Isaac Yamamoto, an all-Olympic League first team infielder last season, gives Sequim a strong presence near the top of the lineup after hitting .327 and 11 steals in 2009 as a sophomore. He led the Wolves with 17 walks and a .480 on-base rate.

Other keys to Sequim's lineup include Jeremie Oliver (.302 average) and Anthony Washington (.333 average, 15 steals).

Seven current Wolves had at least 35 at-bats last season. The team had 86 steals in 93 attempts (92 percent).

Bolstering that potent lineup is Weston Royall, who hit a legitimate .560 at the junior varsity level.

Royall (shortstop) and Ray Montelius (third base) are penciled in to defend the left side of the infield with Yamamoto and Bereiter at second and first, respectively. Matt Rief, a three-year varsity letterman, makes the shift to the outfield this season, joining Rickerson and Gillis.

Needing a strong presence behind the plate to replace graduated starter Ben Omdal, junior Preston McFarlen gets the nod.

"He's taken it to the next level," Ditlefsen said of his new catcher.

On the mound, Ditlefsen will look to a rotation of Gillis, Oliver (a team-best 3.85 ERA), Bereiter and his brother Mike, Rickerson and others.

Last season, the Wolves got off to a 6-5 start in league play before losing four of their final five games.

But Sequim rebounded by winning a 1-0 thriller against Washington in the district opener. After losing to Kingston 6-0, the Wolves crushed Fife 12-5 to earn their first state tourney appearance since 1997. Three Olympic League teams (Sequim, Kingston, Klahowya) captured the three district berths to state.

Once there, Sequim fell 7-4 to River Ridge.

The Wolves have qualified for postseason play the past five seasons, the most recent four under Ditlefsen.



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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