After 22 consecutive wins — and the league title — Puyallup High School’s softball players just may be willing to admit that they’re peaking at the right time.
“I think we’re coming into the strongest part of our season,” said senior center fielder Emily Ensrud, the South Puget Sound League’s two-time defending MVP. “I’m excited to see what we can do and keep it going and wreak some havoc over there in Spokane.”
First things first.
In order to advance to the Class 4A state tournament, the undefeated Vikings must get through their West Central District 3 opponents this weekend. The Vikings open play against Olympia at the Kent Service Club Ballfields at 11 a.m. on Friday.
“We have to leave everything on the field,” said Ensrud, who batted .632 in league games and will play at South Dakota State next year. “Every single game.”
Junior shortstop Natalie Joyner said the Vikings’ versatility will set them apart from the competition.
“We’re deep in every position — you can put everyone anywhere,” said Joyner, who has given a verbal commitment to the University of Northern Colorado.
“This team is really special.”
And also hungry.
After winning the 2014 state title, Puyallup was unable to advance past districts last season. Five players from the championship team are on this year’s roster, and coach Tony Batinovich said they are “more mature, older and stronger.”
“Percentage-wise, we’re ahead of 2014,” he said. “If they can play like that team in the postseason, we could do some damage.”
Joyner, who batted .462 in SPSL play, said the team is prepared.
“I think it’s all going to pay off this weekend,” she said. “We just have to do what we do.”
What Puyallup does, specifically, is win, with a stacked lineup from top to bottom.
Sophomore third baseman Sophia Bjerk, who’s hitting .556 in league play, said that Puyallup benefits from a batting order with “no major holes.”
“It’s not like the first four people score the runs and the rest fill in,” she said. “We have runs all through the board. We all contribute.”
Junior pitcher Kennedy Robillard, whose 12-0 record and 1.97 ERA earned her the league’s Most Valuable Pitcher title, maintains that heart also plays a role in the Vikings’ success.
“We have the talent, we have the depth,” she said. “Everyone being in the game and loving it as much as we do — from No. 1 to No. 15 — is what gets us there.”
Being undefeated does create some added pressure, though.
“When we’re playing Tahoma or Fife and both are undefeated, you know one of these teams is walking away not undefeated,” Joyner said.
Fortunately for the Vikings, it hasn’t been them — yet.
“When we beat (Tahoma), it was like ‘Wow, we’ve got this,’ ” Bjerk said of the SPSL title game, which Puyallup won 7-4. “To beat a team like that shows how far we could go.”
Batinovich admitted winning the 2014 championship “surprised the heck out of me,” and that he isn’t necessarily expecting to do it again.
“It would still surprise me, because it takes a bit of luck,” he said. “But if this team continues to perform well, who knows how far they could go?”
As far as Ensrud is concerned, that’s all the way to the end. The team’s four seniors saw both their freshman and junior seasons end just a game away from state.
“We’re coming back in, showing we’re better than we are,” she said. “We’re better than just one trip to state.”