A loss is not always a defeat

In the zero-sum world of sports, where final scores clearly separate winners from losers, it’s easy for a single defeat to overshadow a series of successes.

In the zero-sum world of sports, where final scores clearly separate winners from losers, it’s easy for a single defeat to overshadow a series of successes.

One last losing score can overshadow all the wins, accomplishments and triumphs of an entire season. Such could even be the case for Portland State softball’s 2011 campaign.

Except it isn’t.

Portland State’s season came to an end two weeks ago today in Seattle with a 2-1 loss to Auburn—a defeat that knocked the Vikings out of the double-elimination NCAA Regionals. But that loss does not define this year’s Vikings; it simply puts the cap on a season that was already filled to the brim with success.

The 2011 Vikings won the Pacific Coast Softball Conference’s Mountain Division title for the second-straight year before going on to win the conference crown with a two-game sweep of Loyola Marymount in the PCSC Championship Series.

The Vikings advanced to the 64-team NCAA tournament for the third time in the program’s Division-I era and went hit-for-hit with nationally ranked opponents Washington and Auburn. And though the girls in green weren’t able to best either the Huskies or the Tigers, they showed—on a national stage—that the Vikings could take the field against any opponent in the country and give them a run for their money.

Portland State finished the season 16-4 in conference and 34-18 overall, marking the second-best record since the program completely moved up to Div-I in 1999 and trailing only the 38 wins earned by the 2006 squad.

The girls in green also raked in a slew of individual honors at both the league and regional levels. The Vikings received a dozen divisional Pitcher or Player of the Week selections throughout the season, with the Vikings sweeping the weekly honors three times.

At season’s end, a record 10 players were selected to the league’s All-Mountain Division teams and senior Nichole Latham and sophomore Carly McEachran were respectively named the division’s Pitcher and Player of the Year. And, in keeping with the “success starts at the top” maxim, head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk earned her third PCSC Coach of the Year honor in as many seasons at the helm.

Three players—Latham, sophomore pitcher Anna Bertrand and junior outfielder Jenna Krogh —were named Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-Pacific Region selections and join only six other PSU players to receive such honors.

The Vikings had statistical backing for all of their success this season, as the Green Machine led the 12-team PCSC in several key statistical categories from both sides of the ball.

At the plate, the Viking sluggers led the conference in team batting average (.308) and slugging percentage (.451), and Krogh hit .398 to lead the conference in her first year in a PSU uniform since transferring from Colorado State.

From the pitching circle, the Vikings held league-bests in earned-run average (2.06), opponents’ batting average (.220) and strikeouts thrown (278).

Latham finished the season with a league-best 1.68 ERA and wraps up her four-year career at PSU with a 52-39 pitching record and a 2.80 overall ERA. She now holds the school’s fifth-best ERA in the Div-I era and the fifth-best win percentage in program history. She also holds the second spot in PSU’s all-time record books for saves, the fifth spot for strikeouts and ties for eighth for shutouts.

Bertrand, the other half of the Viking pitching staff, tops the league charts in strikeouts thrown, batters struck out looking and opposing batting average. After just two seasons, Bertrand ranks sixth all-time in Ks pitched and she tops the career record books with an 8.26 strikeout ratio.

Despite the wins, accolades and overall success of the 2011 season, none of PSU softball’s achievements could have been predicted after the first weekend of league play, when the Vikings lost three of four games to visiting Utah Valley. The Vikings were the preseason favorite to win the division, and the upset at home could have easily derailed any postseason hopes.

From there though, Portland State bounced back and go on to win the next 10 games and 20 of the next 21 on their way to a PCSC championship and NCAA tournament berth. It seems that, for PSU softball’s 2011 season, the Viking success can’t be so easily squelched by a loss, whether it comes early in the season or late in the postseason.

With a deep and proven roster, the Vikings should again be one of the favorites to win the conference next season. The team will only graduate four seniors in Brandi Campos, Susan Winningham, Arielle Wiser and Nicole Latham. Despite the loss of their senior contributors, Echo-Hawk will have a wealth of young talent at her fingertips ready to step up for another run in the spring. ?