Bears follow their pitcher to tourney in echo of ’04

mwochnick@theolympian.comMay 24, 2013 

The last time Olympia High School had a fastpitch team reach the state tournament – in 2004 – it was led by a standout pitcher who piled up wins.

This season has turned out a lot like ’04, with sophomore Maddy Stensby doing her best impression of former star Ryanne Horton, who led Olympia to three state tournament appearances in four years.

Olympia coach Matt Loes already ranks Stensby as one of the top pitchers in school history, and calls her the best Bears pitcher since Horton, a senior on that 2004 team under then-coach Tom Jones.

Horton played for Loes when he coached at South Puget Sound Community College prior to taking the job with the Bears in 2008. He said both pitchers have similar styles. Loes said Stensby’s strength was her velocity, and that “she’s going to get faster,” he said.

“Maddy is strong, too,” Loes

said. “She utilizes a handful of pitches effectively.”

Stensby, who was not eligible to play varsity as a freshman after transferring from River Ridge, has a 19-5 record while striking out 176 batters and posting a 1.30 ERA in more than 150 innings.

Olympia (20-6) opens the Class 4A state tournament at noon Friday at Spokane’s Merkel Sports Complex against Central Valley (19-9), the hometown team. The Bears are looking for their first state trophy since the 1998 team placed third.

In addition to velocity, Stensby can draw on a repertoire of six pitches. Her change-up is a pitch Loes said can be downright “filthy.”

While strikeouts are a big part of her game, Stensby said she has complete trust and confidence in her defense to make the plays behind her. The Bears gave up just 29 runs in 12 league games (2.4 runs a game).

“We’re a giant family,” she said.

Stensby could surpass Horton in the school record book this weekend. Stensby needs one win to tie Horton for the school record for wins in a season by a pitcher – 20.

Stensby said the key to her success this season are early morning workouts that focus on her core. She says it has made a noticeable difference with her pitching.

“It gives you more stamina to pitch longer,” Stensby said. “It makes me feel solid and gets my body ready to play. I feel stronger and I push off harder to pitch.”

And Loes credits Stensby’s hard work with helping the team reach the next level.

“That’s a huge part of why we are going to state, because of her success and determination,” he said.

Class 4A State fastpitch tourney

FRIday-Saturday, Merkel Sports Complex, Spokane

Defending champion: Woodinville

Tickets: $9 for adults, $7 for students/seniors (single-day); $15 for adults, $10 for students/seniors (tournament pass)

Friday’s first-round schedule

10 a.m.: Todd Beamer vs. Bothell

10 a.m.: Arlington vs. South Kitsap

10 a.m.: Tahoma vs. Richland

10 a.m.: Newport (Bellevue) vs. Emerald Ridge

Noon: Skyview vs. Woodinville

Noon: Bellarmine Prep vs. Moses Lake

Noon: Lake Stevens vs. Camas

Noon: Olympia vs. Central Valley

The skinny: The bracket sets up nicely for what many figure will be a Class 4A title game between undefeated Emerald Ridge and reigning champ Woodinville. The Falcons’ only loss came to another national power, North Medford (Ore.). NCAA Division I talent fills both squads, including Jaguars pitcher Meagan Hendrix (Portland State), who is 22-0 with 282 strikeouts in 153 innings, and Falcons pitcher Madi Schreyer (Stanford) and catcher Alex Boyd (Oregon State). … Last year’s third-place team, Richland, features pitcher Kayla Andrews, who consistently throws in the 60 mph range, but the 6-foot junior missed time this spring with a muscle strain in her pitching shoulder. … Olympia, led by Long Island signee Nikki Schroeder (.433 BA) and pitcher Maddy Stensby (19-5, 176 Ks), makes its first state appearance since 2004. The Bears haven’t earned a trophy since 1998.

Class 3A State fastpitch tourney

Friday-Saturday, Regional Athletic Complex, Lacey

Defending champion: Kamiakin

Tickets: $9 for adults, $7 for students/seniors (single-day); $15 for adults, $10 for students/seniors (tournament pass)

Friday’s first-round schedule

9 a.m.: Mountlake Terrace vs. Prairie

9 a.m.: Bonney Lake vs. Juanita

9 a.m.: Bishop Blanchet vs. Peninsula

9 a.m.: University vs. Bainbridge

Noon: Holy Names vs. Shorecrest

Noon: Kelso vs. Kamiakin

Noon: Meadowdale vs. Auburn Mountainview

Noon: Interlake vs. Enumclaw

The skinny: This Kamiakin team isn’t the 2012 squad that topped off an undefeated season by beating Everett in the Class 3A state title game, but the Braves (16-7) still are powerful. Emily Benson (.524 BA) has 44 hits for the Kennewick team. … Kamiakin’s only loss in its past five games was to University, a Spokane team making its 10th state appearance since 2000. Titans teammates Brittany Hecker, Karly Schuh and Ryelynn Mendoza have signed with North Idaho College. … Enumclaw (21-3), fresh off its first bidistrict title, is led by freshman pitcher Quinn Briedenbach and Molly LaMotte, who batted .700 the first month of the season. … This year’s tournament features six West Central/Southwest bidistrict teams — Enumclaw, Auburn Mountainview, Peninsula, Prairie, Kelso and Bonney Lake.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 @MegWochnick

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