Community Sports

Sports Beat | Local fastpitch stars shine as college freshmen

Posted on June 7th, 2024 By:

Two of the area’s fastpitch softball standouts from the 2023 high school season recently wrapped up highly successful college debuts.

Former Peninsula star Alli Kimball helped lead Western Washington University to the precipice of an NCAA Division-II national championship. Slugger Riley Peschek, a former Gig Harbor star, was the top hitter at the University of Montana and announced this spring that she plans to take her talents to the University of Washington.

24 wins for Kimball

Kimball led the Vikings (52-12) to the D-II national championship series in Longwood, Florida. The University of Texas at Tyler ultimately defeated Western on May 25, leaving the Vikings as national runners-up.

Kimball, the best pitcher in Washington high school fastpitch last year and a state champion, went 24-4 with a 1.41 earned run average in 38 appearances at Western Washington. Her 24 wins were the third-most ever by a WWU pitcher.

Kimball felt early on that Western could compete with any team in the country. The Vikings showed well during fall competition against Division I schools and went 9-0 on a spring swing through California.

Alli Kimball, a Peninsula High graduate, pitched Western Washington all the way to the NCAA Division-II championship series.

“I knew this team could do a lot of damage and could have a good chance to make it all the way to the College World Series,” Kimball said.

Kimball was lights-out in the postseason, going 9-2 with a 1.43 ERA. She began the league  playoffs with a win over Northwest Nazarene of Idaho, the only team to defeat Kimball during the regular season. Western coach Sheryl Gilmore had faith in Kimball and started her in the conference title game. She delivered with five shutout innings.

Postseason domination

She also collected wins in the regional and super-regional rounds. Western advanced through the super regionals in dramatic fashion, with a walk-off home run in the eighth inning to defeat Cal State San Marcos 7-6 and advance to the Division II World Series.

Kimball opened the College World Series with a 2-1 victory over Wilmington of Delaware. Then the Vikings knocked off top-seeded University of Indianapolis, 2-1, in 12 innings to advance to the best-of-three national championship series.

Kimball was the only freshman named to the All-Tournament Team. She impressed the stadium announcers with her three favorite pitches — her low rise fastball, a tight spinning curveball and her sneaky offspeed pitch, which she developed confidence in as the postseason went on.

To top off her remarkable season, Kimball was one of eight nominees for the NCAA Division II Freshman of the Year Award.

Staying at Western

Kimball has undoubtedly gained the attention of Division I coaches. But she remains committed to the Vikings.

“I really like it here, and we’re only going up from here,” she said. “Building this program is really important to me. We’ve had a record-setting year and I’d really like to be a part of that for the next three years as well. … Western is where I love to be.”

Peschek bringing her bat back to Washington

Gig Harbor grad Riley Peschek, a freshman shortstop, decided to transfer from Montana to play for legendary University of Washington coach Heather Tarr (742-277-1 in 19 seasons).

Peschek was the No. 1-ranked middle infielder in the fastpitch transfer portal. She joins the Huskies as they prepare for their first season in the Big Ten.

Riley Peschek batted .350 for Montana this season. She will play for the Univesrsity of Washington next year. Photo courtesy Riley Peschek

Peschek’s freshman year at Montana wasn’t exactly like Kimball’s. Montana went 17-33 and just 1-14 in the Big Sky.

But individually, the former Tide may have been the best player on the team. As a freshman, she hit .350 and led her team in four categories — OPS (on-base plus slugging), at 1.055; home runs, with five; RBI, with 33; and total bases, with 89.

Peschek, a shortstop with a quick glove and a rifle for an arm, also had a .950 fielding percentage.

Conference coaches selected Peschek first-team All-Big Sky, recognition that’s difficult to come by when your team struggles and you’re brand new to a conference. But game recognizes game and Pescheck’s season was too special to ignore.

Now it’s on to Seattle.

“I am very excited about my opportunity to play at the University of Washington,” Peschek said. It’s a historic softball program. It’s a dream come true for me to compete at the highest level. I grew up in Gig Harbor and watched UW softball as a little kid, and now I am one of those players! I am so excited.”

The Huskies have made the College World Series eight times since 2005. They played for a national title in 2009 and 2018.

Peschek should have an opportunity to play right away. Eight Huskies entered the transfer portal this offseason, the Seattle Times reported.

Riley Peschek was a first-team All-Big Sky selection as a freshman shortstop. Photo courtesy of Peschek

Gig Harbor’s Snyder 24th at Open qualifying tournament

Gig Harbor golfer Theo Snyder, who finished third at the Class 3A tournament last month, fell short of winning a berth in the U.S. Open during qualifying at Pronghorn Golf Course in Bend, Oregon, on June 3.

Snyder battled 44 of the top players on the West Coast for two at-large berths in the 2024 Open, which is June 13 through 16 at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina.

Snyder, a 16-year-old sophomore, competed against men of all ages at the qualifier. That included college phenoms and pros who played on the PGA Tour before.

Snyder played two rounds in one day and shot a respectable 74 in his first round. That would have had him in contention, but a nightmare scenario unfolded. He showed up on time for his tee time on hole one, but didn’t hear his name called by the starter on the tee box — because he was actually scheduled to begin his round on the 10th tee box.

Theo Snyder earlier this season. Photo by Dennis Browne

He quickly scrambled to arrive on hole 10 but was late. The strict protocol of golf required a marshal to impose a two-stroke penalty. That bumped his final-round score to 80 and his two-round total to 154, good for 24th place.

The penalty luckily didn’t cost Snyder an appearance at the Open. The two qualifiers shot 139 and 141. But it must have weighed heavily on the teenager’s mind throughout his round.

The fact that Snyder got this close to a major tournament at such a young age is the real story as his pure golf swing is always on time. The future remains bright for the talented teenager who will compete for a junior national championship later this summer and also be in the mix for a high school state championship next spring.

Peninsula-on-Peninsula crime

The Peninsula High boys soccer team has one game left on its schedule. It’s against … Peninsula.

The 2024 Seahawks will face a squad of alumni in a fundraiser game at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Roy Anderson Field. The event raised over $2,000 for the school’s soccer program last year.

Tickets cost $5. The evening also include halftime games, a raffle and more.

AGA gymnasts clean up at state, regionals

Several young athletes at AGA Gig Harbor Gymnastics Academy won championships at recent competitions, according to coach Bethany Harper.

Among the top performers were:

Natalie Gibbons, 15, competed in the Diamond level at the Washington State Xcel Championships. Gibbons won the vault, bars and floor events at the competition and finished third in the all-around. At the Region 2 Xcel Championships, Gibbons won the bars (her second time winning that title) and was third in the floor and all-around competitions.

Mia Redditt, 15, competed in the Platinum level at the state XCel Championships. She won the all-around and floor competitions and was second in the vault and bars. Redditt also won vault and floor at Region 2.

Mishylee Perras, 14, won the vault at Xcel Regionals and finished third in the all-around.