Sports

Stars come out for softball game

Heather Case is going to have a busy summer.

But if most of her days end like Thursday’s did, she’ll be just fine with that.

Case, who was voted the Narrows League Most Valuable Player for the 2004 fastpitch softball season, picked up yet another MVP award after an impressive showing at the Second Annual Benik/1010 Graphx Fastpitch Showcase held at Pendergrast Park in Bremerton.

Case, a senior from North Kitsap, led the American League All-Star team to a pair of wins over the National League in Thursday’s action that showcased the best players in Kitsap County.

“Just to come out here and play with (the best in the area) and come out here and say, ‘Oh wow, we got her on my team,’ that’s great,” Case said. “It’s nice to be able to come out and have fun, be able to relax and do your own thing and not really hold back anything.”

Case, who will play for Whitworth College in Spokane next year, held nothing back in leading the American League team to 5-2 and 1-0 wins over the National League.

Olympic College assistant softball coach Clay Blackwood coached the American League team while his boss, Brian Strege, was at the helm of the National League team.

“I don’t care about that (losing to his assistant),” Strege said after the first game. “I’m out here to have fun and enjoy this. And we do enjoy this. We really do.”

Case picked up the win in the first game by throwing four innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out five. On the day at the plate, Case went 4-for-7, earning one of the field coaches MVP awards.

The other award, voted on by Strege and Blackwood, went to Olympic’s Hope Hilman.

“It’s so much fun to come out here and be as relaxed as we are and do the stuff that we do,” Case said.“If you come out relaxed and focused, you can achieve about anything you want to. You know when you’re around the girls on your own team, and you’re there every day, it can get kind of iffy. Coming here with a whole bunch of fresh people, it’s awesome.”

Fun was the key word of the day and most of girls seemed to enjoy the chance to face teammates and players that they had heard or read about. Some of the best matchups of the day included North Mason’s Tiffany McDonald pitching to teammates Lisa Hill and Tanya Huson, Case pitching to teammates Brenda Stice and Jamie Heins and South Kitsap’s Amanda Galla facing teammates Stephanie Solarek and Stephanie Mott.

“Some of the deliberate things we did is break teammates up and put them on different teams,” event director Bill Richardson said. “It makes it kind of fun because in a game situation you get to see (Hill facing McDonald). They see each other in practice all the time but we don’t see it there. During league play, you never saw Case and McDonald square off. But you did here, so it’s fun.

“For those of us that have been around fastpitch a while, we’ve seen these girls from age 10 and on up,” Richardson said. “But to see them all in one place at the same time on a couple of the same teams is really fun.”

Some also were playing positions they don’t normally play, such as SK catcher Savannah Starkweather finishing out the second game in right field.

“It was very entertaining,” Galla said. “Especially seeing Savannah out in right field.”

Galla pitched the final three innings of the first game, striking out two while not allowing a baserunner, and played first base in the second game, getting one of the American League’s 10 hits.

“I thought it was great. It was great experience,” Galla said. “I thought it was fun playing with some people that you don’t know. It was fun meeting new people.”

One of the stars of the day was NM’s Lisa Hill, who went 5-for-7 at the plate, including a pair of doubles, for the American League. The senior received the high school coaches MVP award along with SK’s Mott.

The other MVP award, voted on by the game’s umpires, went to Klahowya pitcher Catlin Henning and NM infielder Huson.

The event, originally put together by Richardson, got a three-year commitment from Benik and 1010 Graphx and is one of a few all-star games for softball players to compete in. They all would like to see the event continue and grow.

“It’s been awesome. The weather has always been on our side,” Richardson said. “We love it. It’s a worthwhile endeavor.

“From there, we want to get bigger and go up the peninsula and go grab Shelton and Port Angeles and Sequim and all those guys,” Richardson said. “Maybe do a round-robin mini-tournament. Maybe have it on Memorial Day weekend, do something like that down the road.”

The players enjoy it as much as anyone and would like nothing better than to see it continue.

“This game means as much as all the other ones,” Case said. “It’s cool to have everyone that’s good to come out here. It’s so competitive. I mean, as a pitcher, you go up and your first batter is a three or four hitter and the next batter is a three or four hitter and the whole lineup is three or four hitters. You’re lucking to get one or two strikeouts.

And while the girls enjoyed the chance to showcase their stuff, Strege and Blackwood, who decided who played on what team, hope to use the event as a recruiting tool.

“Sure, we’re taking a looking at some of them,” Blackwood said. “It gives us a chance to see some of them for the first time and others for a second or third time. It gives us a chance to get to know them and gives them a chance to know who we are.”

Unlike other area all-star games, this one open to players of all classifications, not just seniors. The game saw eight juniors and four sophomores participate.

“I think it’s a great thing to come out and watch,” Galla said. “I think they should advertise it more. They didn’t even mention it at our school.”

And even those who didn’t play enjoyed the atmosphere.

“It’s fun being back here,” said Central Kitsap senior Kristi Baumgartner, who played last year but sat out this year because of an illness. “Last year I was kind of awestruck because of some of the girls I was playing with. This year, even though I’m not playing, it’s different. There’s a different feeling for me but it’s fun.”

Most of Thursday’s players are heading off to play college ball, but many are staying close to home by attending OC. Baumgartner and Starkweather already are committed to play for OC next year while others are leaning that way.

Still some are venturing out of the area while others have played their last fastpitch game.

“I guess this is it for me,” SK second baseman Solarek said. “I had a blast. I didn’t think I’d play that much and I played the whole (first) game, so that was fun.”

Solarek will head of to Concordia University in Portland next fall to play soccer.

Kara Welling, a senior from Olympic who is keeping her options for college open at this point, was happy to get a chance to play one last high-school game.

“Because you’re a senior, and I’ve probably played with all of these girls sometime in my life, it’s just nice to be able to play with them again one last time,” Welling said. “This field is my favorite field to play on in the whole state. It was nice to be out one more time.”

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