Heidi Leitz (8) swings for a base hit against North Kitsap on Thursday. The Riders got up 4-0, but North Kitsap went on to win 15-4 to tie Port Angeles for first place. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula News)

Heidi Leitz (8) swings for a base hit against North Kitsap on Thursday. The Riders got up 4-0, but North Kitsap went on to win 15-4 to tie Port Angeles for first place. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula News)

SOFTBALL: North Kitsap takes control in late innings vs. Roughriders

Robinson sets PA’s new career HR record

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles girls softball team appeared to be in good shape entering the sixth inning, up 4-1 against the defending state champion North Kitsap squad as pitcher Heidi Leitz had the Vikings bats firmly under control.

But the game might have turned on a single play that came down to inches.

In the sixth, the Vikings hitters began figuring out Leitz, who injured her non-pitching hand the inning before while batting. With the game tied 4-4 in the top of the sixth, one out and two runners on, a Vikings’ batter hit a sharp line drive just to the right of shortstop Natalie Robinson.

She made a diving effort on the ball, but missed it by just a couple of inches. If Robinson had been able to snag the line drive, it likely would have been a double play and the inning would have ended with the score tied 4-4.

Instead, two runs scored and the floodgates opened as the Roughriders simply could not stop the bleeding. North Kitsap went on to score seven runs in the sixth and seven more in the seventh to win 15-4. There’s no way of knowing if that line drive barely getting past the mitt of Robinson would have made a difference in the outcome, but it might have been a different game.

Coach Morgan Worthington said the Riders, who have been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the state for much of this season, can learn from this kind of loss. She said she told her players that this game “was not a loss, it’s an opportunity to propel us forward.

“I have no doubt in mind that they will bounce back,” Worthington said.

Home run queen

All of the early runs were on home runs. Port Angeles got off to a great 3-0 start in the first inning. Leitz had a leadoff walk, Lynzee Reid hit a solid single and then Robinson belted a three-run home run.

It was Robinson’s ninth home run of the year and the 33rd of her high school career, breaking the Port Angeles record for home runs held by another Natalie — Natalie Steinman, daughter of longtime Riders coach Randy Steinman.

Ava-Anne Sheahan added another home run in the second inning to give Port Angeles a 4-0 lead. North Kitsap’s Cerenity Fake hit a home run in the third to make it 4-1.

That was the only blemish against Leitz until the sixth. It wasn’t walks or errors that hurt the Riders (Leitz and Reid combined for just two walks). The Vikings showed why they are the defending state champions, simply pounding out hit after hit, ending up with 16 total, almost all of them in the final two innings.

Despite the rough loss, the Riders (9-1, 13-2) are still in first place in the Olympic League, tied with North Kitsap. Port Angeles is done playing at home, but still has four league games left, with one particularly tough game left against a good Olympic team, though Worthington stressed the Riders aren’t overlooking anyone. They played Bainbridge Friday, a game the Riders should win, then will play at Kingston (7-5, 10-5) on Tuesday.

Robinson finished 2-for-3.

North Kitsap 15, Port Angeles 4

North Kitsap 0 0 1 0 0 7 7 — 15 16 0

Port Angeles 3 1 0 0 0 0 0— 4 5 1

Pitching

Port Angeles — Leitz 6 1/3 IP, 8 K, BB, 12 H; Reid 1/3 IP, BB, 4 H; Ritchie 1/3 IP.

Hitting

Port Angeles — Robinson 2-for-3, HR, 3 RBI, R; Sheahan 1-for-3, HR, RBI, R; Leitz, 1-3, R, BB; Reid 1-3, R, HBP.

________

Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or plabossiere@peninsulanews.us.

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