The University of Montana didn’t field an NCAA Division I softball team yet when members of the Grizzlies’ coaching staff saw Olympia High’s Maddy Stensby play last summer, but the verdict already was in: they wanted Stensby in their lineup starting for the 2016 season … as a hitter.
Um, what about pitching, where she eventually would become the Bears’ single-season and all-time leader in strikeouts, innings pitched and wins?
“They didn’t know I could pitch,” Stensby said.
That’s how much of an imprint Stensby left on the coaches’ minds. They would later see what she could do as a pitcher, but her bat is what caught their attention.
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Joining a college program with no tradition appeals to Stensby, who leaves Olympia after creating her own tradition: a 67-17 won-loss record in three seasons, two trips to the Class 4A state tournament, 4A Narrows pitching and 4A Narrows overall MVP honors and an astounding 13 school records.
Some of those school records include: career home runs (21), RBIs (102), strikeouts as a pitcher (668), wins (65), as well as single-season batting average (.511), home runs (13), and RBIs (54).
The next goal for Stensby is establishing herself as an all-around college player — a pitcher and a hitter — and the left-hander said Montana, whose inaugural season was this spring after the state’s Board of Regents in 2011 approved adding softball, is the perfect place for her.
“With Montana, I can make my own name and build our program and set the standard,” Stensby said. “I think I can prove myself as a player.”
Setting the standard is what Stensby has done in three seasons at Olympia. Coach Matt Loes says while Stensby is a great pitcher, she’s an even better hitter.
As a sophomore, she primarily was a singles hitter. That changed because of her work ethic and maturing physically. She hit six home runs as a junior, then a school-record 13 this season with a team-leading .511 batting average as the No. 3 hitter in the Bears’ batting order. Her 48 hits (including 13 doubles), 54 RBI and a 1.085 slugging percentage also were also team-highs.
It’s no wonder Loes calls Stensby one of the best hitters he’s seen in his 18 years of coaching at the high school and junior-college level.
“An off-game for her might be 1 for 3,” Loes said.
Stensby didn’t have many off-games as a pitcher for the Bears.
Using a repertoire of six pitches — fastball, change-up, dropball, screwball, curveball and riseball — Stensby started pitching for the Bears as a sophomore.
As a senior, she accumulated 273 strikeouts over 190 innings to lead Olympia to a 27-3 record and the 4A Narrows League championship.
Even after all the success on the field, Stensby’s fondest memories involve the friendships with teammates and playing her freshman season on the junior varsity after transferring.
“Not playing (varsity) was meant to be,” she said.