Finally, the real sport begins

Spring is just around the corner, which means … softball is finally here, and so is the great smell and taste of hotdogs. With the return of seven starters and ten letter-winners from last year’s squad, things are looking pretty good for Portland State’s women’s softball team.

Last season the Vikings captured third place in the recently formed Pacific Coast Softball Conference with a 10-8 league mark.

Despite being picked to finish fourth in this season’s preseason poll, Teri Mariani, who will be beginning her 28th year as head coach, believes her squad has as good a chance as any of the six conference teams to win it all.

” I think we were dropped to fourth in the polls because the other coaches saw the caliber of players that we lost,” said Mariani. “But as tough as our schedule is, and I feel it’s the toughest we’ve ever had, we are going to be prepared for conference play as long as we take the correct mental approach.”

The Vikings jump head first into the 2004 season, facing nine teams that are ranked among the top 25 teams of the country, including the national champion and preseason No. 1 UCLA, and No. 2 California. Eleven of Portland State’s opponents made NCAA Regionals in 2003 and two played in the Women’s College World Series.

Junior captain Kayla Lewis is coming off her most productive season at the plate. Lewis is Portland State’s best clutch hitter, batting over .400 with runners in scoring position. Lewis will also be backing up Rose Rutledge at catcher this season.

For the first time in eight seasons, Portland State will have no one named Seibert on the pitching mound. After the graduation of ace-hurler Morgan, who followed in her sister Shevaun’s footsteps as a freshman in 2000, a new period for Vik pitchers will start this season.

Sophomore right-hander and the Vikings’ leader in ERA last season (2.25), Michelle Hext is PSU’s only returning pitcher. Christy Hess and Vanessa Holm, both right-handers will also be accompanying Hext this year.

The outfield may be the deepest area of the field this year with all three starters returning from last season. “Depth wise, this is the strongest outfield we’ve had in some time,” commented Mariani.

This year, Portland State will also be heading outside college ranks for an exhibition double header against the Canadian Olympic Team, as it prepares for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece.

“The chance to play an Olympic team will be a special experience for our players and fans,” said Mariani.

The Vikings kick off their season playing against Louisiana State University at the UNLV Softball Classes in Las Vegas, Nevada.