Following a dreadful four-game sweep at the hands of Loyola Marymount last weekend, the Portland State softball team made a complete turnaround this past weekend against Santa Clara.
Following a dreadful four-game sweep at the hands of Loyola Marymount last weekend, the Portland State softball team made a complete turnaround this past weekend against Santa Clara. Thanks to solid pitching and some red-hot bats, the Vikings claimed three of four games at Erv Lind Stadium, improving their record to 21-32 overall and 6-9 (fourth place) in Pacific Coast Softball Conference (PCSC) contests.
When all the conference contests concluded last weekend and the standings were tallied, the defending-champion Vikings found themselves in an unfamiliar position-the PCSC cellar. But head coach Amy Hayes said that the realization of what the season has become has significantly changed the mentality of her team.
“What’s different for us is it is coming down to the end of the season and you look at the reality of things and where we’re at-you just say I have to play my game,” Hayes said. “To me, it looks like we have had a weight lifted off our shoulders and we’re just getting the job done.”
The Vikings appeared rejuvenated from beginning to end in this series, seeming to rediscover their groove from last season’s championship run with a superb offensive attack and consistency on the mound.
In the first game, both pitchers took center stage. Portland State junior right-hander Mandy Hill quieted the Broncos’ bats, allowing two runs on six hits and one walk. The Vikings’ ace also punched out seven batters in the 2-1 loss. Hill and the Vikings were slightly upstaged by Santa Clara’s junior right-hander Jackie Morales, who tossed seven innings of six-hit ball and struck out five.
“We played a very good game in game one,” Hayes said, “but balls just didn’t fall our way. And that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
After the game-one loss, the Vikings bounced back in unparalleled fashion in Saturday’s second matchup. Portland State began its offensive onslaught quickly, striking first with a four-run first inning where the Vikings took advantage of two costly Bronco errors.
Hill was once again hitting her spots from the mound, allowing only two hits in the shutout to earn her 17th victory of the season.
In the second inning the Portland State offense absolutely exploded. Scoring five runs behind a grand slam courtesy of sophomore right fielder Jackie Heide. The game was called after the fifth inning, and the 9-0 victory was the largest margin of the season for the Vikings.
The Vikings’ bats were still blazing-hot come Sunday, as Portland State jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the second inning. Portland State continued its recipe for success–solid pitching and powerful hitting–en route to a 14-2 five-inning victory. Hill headlined the power department of the offensive attack, slamming a two-run first-inning blast that gives her 11 homers on the season. In the consistency department, sophomore first baseman Jana Rae Slayton saw the ball exceptionally well and concluded game one four-for-four with four RBIs.
“We came into games two and three and just run-ruled them,” Hayes said. “Finally, our bats came on like they hadn’t all season. I think that should give my players confidence, because that’s what they’re capable of, and they just went out and took care of business.”
In the final matchup of the weekend, Portland State held off an early three-run threat from Santa Clara in the first inning to score eight runs by the conclusion of the fourth. After a rocky first inning, Hill settled down to allow only one run the rest of the way.
“My arm was a little stiff when I woke up this morning, but I felt strong–like I could still throw hard and had my spin–so I felt pretty good,” said Hill. “With the bases loaded and their power hitter up to bat, I was a little worried, but I knew if I kept it on the ground our defense would take care of it.”
While Hill pieced together a solid performance in the circle, she was equally effective at the plate, collecting two hits for three RBIs. Freshman Brandi Scoggins also added a couple hits to bolster the Portland State attack, helping the Vikings claim an 8-4 victory.
Portland State will face off against Oregon at the friendly confines of Erv Lind Stadium Wednesday, before taking its show on the road in a four-game series versus conference foe San Diego next Saturday and Sunday.
Prior to the beginning of the series’ final game, Portland State center fielder Kimi Daniel was honored as the lone senior, with fans and players graciously thanking her for four years in the program. Daniel, who walked on to the squad as a freshman, plans to become a nutritionist and, hopefully, work alongside professional athletes in the future. Her teammates and coach celebrated her for the constant positive attitude, dedication and never-quit mentality.
“My lasting memory as a Viking would definitely have to be last year–winning conference and getting that ring. Nobody expected that from us last year, and we proved so many people wrong,” Daniel said.
Year Avg. Runs HR RBI SLG%2005 .248 15 4 13 .3892006 .295 34 10 27 .5442007 .248 20 0 19 .336