Softball debuts in fall ball

The Portland State softball team opened the autumn exhibition season over the weekend with four games at Erv Lind Stadium.

The Portland State softball team opened the autumn exhibition season over the weekend with four games at Erv Lind Stadium. With four straight wins, the Vikings showed signs of picking up right where they left off last season.

The Vikings began their eight-game “fall ball” schedule on Saturday afternoon with a 4-2 victory over Clackamas Community College, and followed that with a 6-4 win over Concordia University. The reigning Mountain Division titleholders then blanked Mount Hood Community College in a Sunday double-header, 4-0 and 9-0.

Last year, the Vikings went 30-27 overall and won the division pennant with an 18-2 record in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference. In the first year of the conference’s two-division setup, the Vikings fell to Coastal Division winners Saint Mary’s in the inaugural PCSC Championship Series, two games to one.

This season, Portland State looks to reclaim the PCSC Championship and entry into the NCAA Regionals, a feat it last accomplished in 2009.

This year’s fall ball opener began in favor of the Vikings’ opposition, but clearly ended well for PSU. CCC took an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning of Saturday’s first game, but the Vikings quickly struck back when senior utility player Brandi Campos hit a one-run RBI to cut the Cougars’ lead in half.

The pattern continued with Portland State adding another two runs off of a hard-hit grounder from sophomore infielder Carly McEachran, giving Portland State a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth. The team provided more of the same with another run in the seventh inning to give the Vikings a 4-2 win over the Cougars.

The Vikings faced the Concordia Cavaliers in the second game of the day and showed a few mistakes, but still took a 1-0 lead early in the first inning. Concordia struck back in the second and took the lead away from the Vikings, but the Cavaliers’ threat was short-lived. Portland State quickly responded with two runs to regain the lead.

From that point on, the Vikings’ bats took control of the game. Two consecutive homeruns brought the score to 6-2 in Portland State’s favor. And although Concordia fought back with two runs in the sixth to cut the lead, the Cavaliers’ effort was too little, too late. Portland State senior pitcher Nichole Latham put an end to the rally attempt and closed out the game for a 6-4 win.

The Viks softball team went 2-0 on the day and showed increased confidence on Sunday as they shut out MHCC in both games of the double-header. Both wins came with convincing style as Portland State earned a 4-0 win over the Saints before following it with a 9-0 victory.

The weekend was a success for the Vikings, who went 4-0 in the tournament without much stress.

Head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk, last year’s PCSC Coach of the Year, said that the pitching was what stood out in the performance.

“Which is good, since it is the center of our game,” she said.

Both pitchers, right-hander Latham and sophomore right-hander Anna Bertrand, stepped up in Saturday’s second game to lock in the win. Last season, Bertrand was named both the PCSC Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, and Latham broke the school record in saves and went 8-0 with a 0.60 ERA in league play.

Portland State’s new freshmen and transfers also impressed Echo-Hawk.

“I thought for only having two weeks of practice we did very well as a team,” Echo-Hawk said. “We played well, but the communication is going to need some work.”

Seven new players, four freshmen and three transfers, join 11 returning players on the Vikings’ roster this year. With the inclusion of the new talent, the team did appear to have early problems with team chemistry and cohesion, but it was not enough to create any opportunities for the opposition. In all, spirits were high for the Vikings and the wins made for two pleasant days of softball.

Notable players for the Vikings included freshman third baseman Crysta Conn and freshman outfielder Meghan Lyons, as well as sophomore transfer Karmen Holladay.

The Vikings next travel to Eugene for a double-header against the Oregon Ducks on Oct. 9. The following day they will put a lid on the fall season in a meeting with the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis. Portland State’s regular season begins Feb. 10, 2011, at the six-game Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.