This year the Portland State softball team truly had an historic season. The Vikings enjoyed their best season ever on the diamond, finishing with an astounding 38-20 record and playing in the NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time in school history.
Heading into the 2005-06 season, spirits were down about the Vikings’ softball program due to the retirement of head coach Teri Mariani at the end of the 2004-05 season. Mariani spent 29 years at the helm and accumulated 663 wins in her tenure, establishing the Vikings as a Division II power and facilitating the move to being a Division I school as a member of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference.
Expectations may have seemed low after the loss of a Portland State legend, but first-year head coach Amy Hayes stepped in and brought undeniable success to the Vikings’ softball program. Hayes instantly provided the depleted team with a calming sensation. When Hayes and the Viks started the season with a rough weekend at the Hilton Las Cruces Invitational, finishing the tournament 0-5, panic didn’t ensue. Instead the Viks fired back, sweeping the following weekend’s tournament and winning 11 of their next 14 games.
The Vikings’ early season woes followed by their seemingly flawless play built the foundation for the remainder of their season. After their first weekend blunder, the Viks compiled an impressive 38-15 overall record and a 15-5 record against conference foes. This squad had experienced the misery of the lowest of lows and the delight of the highest of highs, so they had the confidence to overcome any obstacle that appeared in their path.
With their first PCSC title and automatic NCAA Tournament berth in program history in their sights, the Viks had to sweep their final three-game series of the season against Loyola Marymount. Winning the first two games of the series fairly easily set up a pivotal final game. Hayes opted to send sophomore right-hander Mandy Hill to the mound for this absolutely crucial game, and Hill responded magnificently. She guided the Viks to victory as only she can, allowing six hits in six innings on the mound and boosting the offensive attack with five RBIs at the plate.
The following weekend the Viks traveled to Corvallis, the host site of the NCAA Regional Tournament, to play Baylor in the opening game. Jumping out to an early lead thanks to a Hill two-run homer in the first, the Viks appeared to have secured a victory over the number 19 team in the nation. But Baylor catcher Chelsi Lake ended all hope for a Portland State victory in the bottom of the seventh inning when she belted a two-run home run to steal the victory for the Bears.
Since the tournament was a two elimination format the Viks had a chance to redeem themselves in a matchup with Nevada the following day. Coming into the game the Viks felt confident that they could earn a victory because they had defeated the Wolf Pack on three separate occasions during the season. The Viks assumed correctly, beating Nevada 2-1 and in turn arranging another seventh-inning battle with Baylor.
Once again Baylor needed all seven innings to finally dispose of Portland State, scoring the eventual game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning. The Viks came close in the bottom half of the inning by advancing junior left fielder Kimi Daniel to third base, but in the end the Vikings could never move Daniel the additional 60 feet to score the tying run. The loss marked the end of the finest season in program history.
Although their season may have ended with disappointment in Corvallis, the Viks were pleasantly surprised with the number of postseason awards flooding in after their season came to an end.
Hayes was rewarded for her fine coaching job in her first year at Portland State by receiving PCSC Coach of the Year honors. This marked the first time in her five-year head-coaching career that Hayes had won the hardware for a conference coach of the year.
While Hayes won her award for her work in the dugout, Hill received numerous honors for her outstanding work at many positions on the field. The Vikings’ versatile star received the PCSC Pitcher of the Year award primarily for compiling an unreal 24-7 record, which ties the school record.
On top of winning the conference’s top pitching award, Hill was also recognized for her all-around dominance by being named to the All-Pacific Region team, becoming the third Viking to receive the honor. Recently, Hill was awarded the Portland State Female Athlete of the Year award in the team category.
Even after their season was over the Vikings found a way to break another record, becoming the first team in program history to have five players honored as members of the PCSC first or second team. The aforementioned Mandy Hill, senior shortstop Lacey Gorman and senior right-handed pitcher Michelle Hext earned first-team honors. Receiving second-team honors were sophomore-designated player Stephanie Bean and junior left fielder Kimi Daniel.
After the conclusion of a fabulous season the Viks are looking forward to making more memories next season. However, they will be without the services of three key components to this season’s success. Seniors Hext, Gorman and catcher Jennie Shollenberger will be graduating this year, so the Vikings will be forced to make a run at repeating as PCSC Champions next season without their services.