Renee Stewart, who is in her fifth year as softball coach at Northwest Christian, recorded her 100th career victory on April 12 with a 5-3 win at home over Chewelah in the second game of a Northeast 2B doubleheader.
It was NWC’s eighth victory in a row to start the season.
Stewart deflected praise for her accomplishments and turned it toward her players and their families.
“We’ve had a really good program of girls that have played ball for quite some time, that really takes the time and effort during the offseason to get better,” Stewart said.
“It’s just a great honor to be part of such a great community at Northwest Christian and to have the players that I’ve had in the program. They have such good chemistry, and there would be no way that I would have gotten 100 wins if it wasn’t for every one of those girls and all of their families and their support throughout the years.”
The Crusaders went on to beat Deer Park 7-2 for nine in a row before that streak – and a two-season, 36-game winning streak – was snapped in a 4-0 loss to Pe Ell/Willapa Valley last Saturday in Napavine, where the top three finishers at the 2018 State 2B tournament met.
NWC won the 2018 State 2B championship with a 27-0 record, beating Napavine 3-0 in the title game. Pe Ell/Willapa Valley – which NWC defeated 8-4 in a semifinal game – finished third.
“You play with a little bit of a target on your back,” Stewart said. “You feel like everybody wants to come in and beat the reigning state champions.
“But the girls have handled it really well. Our senior leaders have done a really good job at just keeping things in perspective and playing one game at a time, and really just focusing on this season. Because last season’s over, and we have to just concentrate on the goals for what we want to accomplish this season, and what their legacy is going to be.”
NWC turned around last Saturday and defeated Napavine 17-1.
The Crusaders beat 3A Rogers 18-2 on Monday in a game rescheduled from earlier this season. A league doubleheader sweep on Tuesday against Davenport left NWC with a 13-1 record entering the last week of play before the district tournament.
“We’re very task-focused,” Stewart said. “We’re focused on the next game, and the next day. We don’t even speak about postseason.
“It’s important that the girls they keep their focus on what we have right now, because the only way to get to the postseason is to take care of business now, and then when we get to districts, be able to just learn from what we did during our regular season, and take that all in and learn from what we’ve done.”
The NWC community recognized Stewart and her 100 wins in a surprise ceremony on the field following Monday’s game against Rogers. She was presented with a framed picture with the names of all the players from the program the past five seasons.
“I had no idea,” she said. “I was, I was shocked. It happened at the end of the game and I, yeah, I had no idea that was happening. They said, ‘Wait a minute,’ and yeah, they got me.”
Stewart said when she took over the program she had a task to rebuild, which started with getting the younger players involved. Her two seniors this season, Jordan Rabe and Amree Tibbetts, played as eighth-graders on Stewart’s first team and have experienced each of the 105 wins with her.
“Our team was so small that we were able to bring up eighth-graders to come play varsity that year,” Stewart said. “And so they were a part of that and definitely added value to the team the whole way through. They were starters when they came in.”
Stewart said she is focused on building something that has an impact on the student-athletes and the community.
“The thing I want to accomplish most is bringing up our younger kids and having the younger girls learn from the older girls, so that they see what they’re doing and they are able to want that,” she said. “Once you start getting (a program) in that groove and you start competing, then (success) follows.
“So I really want to leave behind that legacy for those younger kids to watch and look up to these older kids, and just to be able to want to do the same things that they’re doing – creating a good legacy for down the road for the future for girls sports at Northwest Christian.”
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