For Pacific Coast Softball Conference teams, there is only one guaranteed ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Unlike softball powerhouses such as the Pacific-10 or Southeastern Conference, which typically have several NCAA Tournament berths each year, the PCSC has historically sent just one team to the 64-squad tournament.
Raising Hell – From the desk of Nathan Hellman
For Pacific Coast Softball Conference teams, there is only one guaranteed ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Unlike softball powerhouses such as the Pacific-10 or Southeastern Conference, which typically have several NCAA Tournament berths each year, the PCSC has historically sent just one team to the 64-squad tournament.
This means every year six teams battle for one opportunity to compete in the postseason, a notion not lost on Portland State head coach Amy Hayes.
“We know the only way we’re getting to the tourney is to win the conference,” Hayes said.
More likely than not, this upcoming weekend will decide whether the Vikings or another PCSC team will occupy the PCSC’s spot in softball’s version of March Madness this year, as the conference’s top four squads square off.
The Vikings are scheduled to host Saint Mary’s in a matchup of the second and third best PCSC teams, respectively, at Erv Lind Stadium. While Portland State takes on the Gaels, fourth-place Loyola Marymount will travel to northern California for a four-game series versus Sacramento State, which sits atop the PCSC standings.
After being pummeled at the hands of the conference-leading Hornets this past weekend and dropping a pair of games to intrastate rival Oregon this week, Portland State’s matchup with St. Mary’s can be properly described with only one word: crucial.
It’s crucial because the four-game series represents the turning point in Portland State’s season, as the Vikings’ postseason prospects will look either bright or grim by Sunday evening.
With a good showing, Portland State could be back on track and only a few Sacramento State losses away from stealing back first place in the PCSC.
And after claiming 12 of 13 contests before succumbing to the Hornets’ wrath last weekend, Portland State could regain momentum and be on its way to sweeping its final two series, like Hayes believes is necessary to win the conference crown.
While that positive outcome sounds fine and dandy for Viking fans, the danger of being at the turning point of a season could be equally as detrimental to the team’s postseason aspirations.
If Portland State comes out to Erv Lind Stadium and fails to hit with power or allows double-digit hits like its pitchers did against Oregon on Wednesday, it’s likely that no matter how well the Vikings perform in the latter stages of the season, they’ll retire their gloves and uniforms immediately following their last regular-season game.
All in all, you can dissect this series any possible way. You can say senior star player Mandy Hill must step up. You can preach that the Vikings’ sluggers-sophomore Jackie Heide, senior Jana Ray Slayton and Hill-must jump-start the offense with long balls. You can call freshman pitcher Nicole Latham’s seventh-inning breakdown against Oregon a fluke.
But, when it comes down to it, whether or not Hill steps up, the trio hits home runs or Latham swiftly pitches through trouble in the seventh inning, Portland State must be victorious in at least three of the four games. If not, call the season a wrap, because the Vikings will be playing for nothing but pride at that point.
And playing just for pride at the tail end of the spring is the worst feeling for any college softball team.
Four games will decide whether that’s in the cards for the Vikings.