Marki Creger-Zier: Steilacoom's triple threat
DOUG PACEY; Staff writer
During the University of Washington’s march to the NCAA softball championship last year, Marki Creger-Zier looked on with excitement.
Not only was the Steilacoom High School fastpitch star going to play her college games close to home, she was going to play for a national power.
That left Creger-Zier thrilled and just a little bit edgy.
“It was exciting because I knew that I was going to go there and they had just won the national title,” she said. “It was nerve-wracking because I know I have big shoes to fill.”
The same words will be spoken about the girl who plays shortstop at Steilacoom next season, too. Creger-Zier, a four-year starter, will leave a void when she graduates.
“She’s just a really good athlete,” Sentinels coach Mike Norris said.
A three-sport athlete, Creger-Zier placed fourth at the state cross country meet as a junior and was a second-team all-Nisqually League selection in girls basketball this year. On the fastpitch diamond, she’s piled up accolades and awards, earning league MVP honors and twice being named to The News Tribune’s All-Area team.
Creger-Zier credits her quickness with making her one of the state’s most feared leadoff hitters and base-runners.
“My speed is the key to my game,” she said. “Without my speed I wouldn’t be as successful as I am.”
Despite her svelte 5-foot-4 frame, Creger-Zier packs some serious punch at the plate.
“For a girl her size, she’s got tremendous power,” Norris said. “She’s a triple threat. She can hit the ball long, slap and bunt.”
Creger-Zier has come through with timely hits on many occasions.
“She’s a really good leader,” senior co-captain Beth Kassuhn said. “When we need a clutch hit, she’s going to do it.”
Creger-Zier has received some guidance from older sister Riki, also was a four-year starter at Steilacoom. She played at Georgia Tech before transferring to Lower Columbia College.
“She said everything comes down to hard work,” Creger-Zier said. “I try to do that with everything.”
When Creger-Zier reports to Washington, she will probably make the transition to the outfield or second base, a position she plays for her club team, Northwest Blaze. Huskies coach Heather Tarr has said that Creger-Zier’s athleticism makes her a perfect fit for the middle infield or the wide-open spaces of the outfield.
Yet, something has remained out of her reach.
Steilacoom stumbled at the state tournament last season, placing fifth for the second straight year. Back-to-back state appearances would be enough for many programs, but not for the Sentinels. Not after winning the district title and entering the state playoffs with a record of 21-1.
“Fifth was a disappointment,” Creger-Zier said. “We were aiming higher than that.”
Steilacoom enters the season searching for its third Nisqually League title in four seasons. Creger-Zier and Kassuhn, the reigning Nisqually League MVP, give the Sentinels two cornerstones to build around. If Steilacoom makes another state tournament run, expect that duo to be leading the charge.
“They have a chance to leave a real legacy,” Norris said. “No reason we can’t go back and repeat what we did last year and improve on that fifth-place finish at state.”
Doug Pacey: 253-597-8271
HIGH SCHOOL FASTPITCH OVERVIEW
FOUR STORY LINES TO FOLLOW THIS SEASON:
1. Can a 4A West Central District team end the state title drought?
It’s been eight years since a team from the West Central District has reached the softball state championship game. Since Kentridge won the title in 2002, teams from KingCo (4), Greater Spokane League (4), Greater St. Helens (5) and WesCo (1) have dominated the final round.
2. Stadium, Wilson are Narrows League favorites
Stadium and Wilson are again the teams to beat in the Narrows League. Last season, both won regular-season division titles before the Rams nipped the Tigers in the league tournament, 2-0. Stadium has the services of junior P Heidi Wells
, an All-Area selection who averaged 11.5 strikeouts per game as a sophomore. Wilson will rely on a youthful yet talented battery of P Janessa Flynn
and C Taylor Clark
3. Puyallup, Rogers the class of SPSL South
The SPSL South is shaping up to be a two-team battle between Rogers and Puyallup. The Rams rolled to the West Central District title last season behind the pitching of All-Area selection Bobbi-Jo Schaapveld
, and the senior has been dominant this year, winning her first five games. Puyallup P Kelsey Robinson
, a junior, has electric stuff and gets support from All-Area IF Kylie McChesney
. The teams have their first meeting on April 13.
4. Tumwater eyeing another state title run
Tumwater is loaded for another deep trip into the postseason. All but two starters are back for the Thunderbirds, who reached the 2A state semifinals last year, and they will be anchored by all-state OF Amanda Deck
, P Chelsea Felton
and C Katie Blomgren
Doug Pacey, staff writer