At first glance, it’s hard to tell Kirsten Ritchie is only a freshman. At nearly 6-foot and with plenty of natural ability both on the mound and at the plate, Ritchie has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Peninsula High School softball team.
One person isn’t surprised that she’s already had a big impact for the Seahawks, though.
That person is the softball team’s coach, Melissa Miller, who also teaches physical education at the school. When Ritchie walked through the doors of her PE class in the fall of 2014, Miller already knew she might have a solid contributor on her hands.
"Right off the bat, I saw that she was a competitor," Miller said. "She liked to be with the boys and compete. There was no laziness there. That was good. I watched her play basketball. She’s coordinated. She doesn’t move like she’s 6 feet tall. She can do everything."
A little bit of everything is indeed what Ritchie provides for the young Seahawks squad. On the mound, Ritchie was a force on Thursday at home against Bonney Lake, giving up just two runs over five innings of action. At the plate, Ritchie hit her first home run of the year in the third, a three-run blast over the left field fence that was part of a 13-run hit parade in the third. The Seahawks went on to win, 16-2.
"I was thinking about the last at bat where I had hit it pretty far and it had gotten caught right at the fence," Ritchie said. "I was just focusing on hitting in like the last one and just making sure that I kept my head on the ball because that’s my problem. I pull my head a lot."
That talent is there — clearly. Now, it’s just a matter of harnessing Ritchie’s potential.
"She likes to swing hard every single time," Miller said. "We’ve been working on just getting her to ease up a little and take her natural, normal swing. And that’s what she can do. It wasn’t like she was swinging for the fence on that (home run). … She has the ability to be a huge game changer."
The Seahawks have been plagued with some injuries this season, so having a freshman come and be steady has been a blessing for Miller.
"We’re grateful she’s been healthy and has been able to throw,” the coach said. “She’s thrown the last three games in a row by herself. We’re very fortunate to have her."
Peninsula (9-5 overall, 7-4 SPSL 3A) hopes to close out the season strong.
"I think we’re doing well," Ritchie said. "We’re doing well in our league. I think our season is going great and we have a solid team. It’s pretty good all around — good hitting and fielding."
Peninsula overpowered the Panthers and hope the dominant win is a sign of things to come for the final part of the season.
"We’re a hard-hitting team," Miller said. "In the last couple games, we’ve kind of struggled. (Wednesday), we had a really good practice. … Everything we worked out in practice, they executed perfectly in the game. I have no complaints about the way they played at all."