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Salota Hensene, left, and Melody Henchi, both from the Marshall Islands, start for Rogers. Slowpitch is played in their native land. (Colin Mulvany)

Marshallese girls adjust to fastpitch at Rogers

Melody Henchi and Salota Hensene are breaking new ground at Rogers High and paving the way for fellow Marshallese women.

Henchi, a senior left fielder, and Hensene, a junior second baseman, are the first girls from the Marshall Islands to give fastpitch a serious try at Rogers, coach Cris Coffield said.

The girls said Marshallese women have long enjoyed softball, but slowpitch instead of fastpitch. Henchi and Hensene are both into their third year of adjusting to fastpitch.

“Salota is a major power hitter in slowpitch,” Coffield said. “Melody is a sure glove in the outfield. She’s a singles hitter learning how to hit the other way.”

Henchi has been in Spokane for 10 years, three more than Hensene. She’s the youngest in her family and lives with her aunt and uncle.

Hensene is the oldest in her family, with a younger sister at Rogers and a younger brother at Shaw Middle School.

The girls, both from the capital atoll of Majuro, never met before they came to the United States, but they found out they’re related.

“Her dad is like my cousin, but in a way I call him like a brother,” Henchi said.

“She’s like my auntie,” Hensene said. “She IS my aunt.”

Many Marshallese have moved to the U.S., including about 6,000 in the Springdale, Ark., area. An estimated 2,400 to 3,000 Marshallese live in Spokane County and around 40 attend Rogers.

“The reason we came to America was for education,” Henchi said. “That’s probably one of the biggest reasons why Marshallese move here. Second is probably the economy in the Marshall Island is not that great.”

“As Marshallese teenagers growing up in the U.S., it’s an honor for us because we have all these opportunities that maybe we would have never had,” Hensene said.

Henchi, who graduates in two months, said she’d like to attend Spokane Falls Community College before transferring to Eastern Washington or Washington State to study nursing. Hensene hopes to play softball in college.

Hit parade: Northeast A League-leading Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls (8-0) is hitting better than .500 as a team, topped by senior center fielder Taylor Sheldon, who was 15 for 18 (.833) through Wednesday.

“I feel this could truly be my best-hitting team in the 11 years I’ve been head coach at Lakeside,” Chuck Moffatt said. “We have no holes in our lineup from 1 to 9.”

Through Wednesday, senior shortstop Kirsten Kyllo was hitting .571 with 12 RBIs and 23 total bases. Senior catcher Hannah Tanner was batting .579 with 11 RBIs.

Senior pitcher Nikki Tiffany is 8-0 with an ERA lower than 1.50. She and McKensie Brittos combined on two five-inning no-hitters against Freeman on Thursday.

“She’s fearless and attacks each hitter,” Moffatt said of Tiffany. “She’s not afraid to make them put the ball in play.”

Notes: Junior Carli Riordan pitched a three-hitter and senior Destiny McCoy scored the go-ahead run on a botched squeeze bunt in the fifth inning as Central Valley edged visiting University 2-1 Thursday in a key Greater Spokane League game. CV tied U-Hi and North Central for second place at 6-2. First-place Mead (8-0) plays at U-Hi today. … Junior Kayla Albertson homered twice Wednesday as Coeur d’Alene (7-1) defeated visiting Shadle Park 8-3 to give coach Larry Bieber his 400th career win. Bieber is 400-136 in 20 seasons with the Vikings. … Junior Jessica Wittmeyer hit a solo homer in the first game and a grand slam in the second game as Great Northern League-leading Colville (12-1, 11-0) swept East Valley 9-1, 14-6 on Wednesday. … West Valley senior third baseman Bailey Castor went 3 for 4 with a homer and four RBIs during an 11-4 win over East Valley last Saturday.