The Portland State softball team might have been worried after Friday’s doubleheader at the San Diego Tournament. The team lost two games in which they pitched well, but could not close out the opposition or get a hit when they needed it.
On Saturday and Sunday, though, the Vikings turned it up another notch on the mound to blow through the next three teams without allowing a run, while only scoring five runs themselves.
Portland State lost 2-1 to Boston College, and then 7-2 to BYU on the first day of the tournament.
“No question, we could have won that tournament,” said Portland State Coach Teri Mariani.
“That first day, Boston College was not that strong. We left five on base in the first three innings and missed our chance to break the game open early. Against BYU, we really only made one critical mistake. They loaded the bases and then hit back to back triples and all of a sudden they cleared the bases and scored six runs on us, but we were very capable of winning,” Mariani said.
“We can’t figure the bats out, and that is the most frustrating thing, because it’s the first time in 25 years that I can’t find a solution. We’re lucky our pitching and defense is allowing us to squeak out wins when, offensively, we don’t deserve them,” Mariani said.
“We hit well in batting practice and in drills, but there’s some mental block in the game situation. That’s this week’s challenge. I’m going to sit down and talk to them to see what they’re thinking about and what’s going on when they step into the box. Maybe we’ll mix up the drills and instead of just taking cuts we’ll hit innings and give them three strikes to hit or something, to make it more like a game.”
Saturday featured superb pitching by Morgan Seibert and Nichole Ivie, as Portland State beat Northern Iowa 1-0 to snap a nine-game losing streak, and then beat Tulsa 3-0.
Against Northern Iowa, Seibert struck out 10 and only walked one. Ivie allowed Tulsa seven hits in just over six innings without allowing a run.”Nichole pitched really well in both her games, probably her best two games of the year,” Mariani said.
On Sunday, Seibert threw another masterpiece, striking out nine and giving up only three hits, as the Vikings beat host San Diego 1-0.
“I told them in the dugout, ‘if we lose this game I’ll give Morgan permission to take a bat to all of you.’ It’s really frustrating when the pitching is that good and you can’t score any runs,” Mariani said.
“Morgan had one of her best weekends ever. There were two games when she had one walk and 10 strikeouts. She really made it possible for us to win those games, not allowing the other team to even get base runners.”
Mariani, contrasting the styles of her two starting pitchers, noted how each has a different specialty.
“Nichole doesn’t have as much off-speed stuff as Morgan. She relies more on her fastball. The off-speed pitch is really Morgan’s forte, but Nichole really needed to develop that for this season, and she did,” Mariani added.
Both Seibert and Ivie pitched for the Vikings last year, and both have made significant improvements that have shown in their games early this season.
“The biggest difference in Morgan’s game this year is her confidence. She’s got a lot more confidence this year. She came in against Tulsa and saved the game for us. They had the bases loaded with one out and Morgan got the batter to ground out to Marissa and we turned a double play,” Mariani said.
Mariani is reluctant to compare this staff to many of the others she has coached in her 25 years at Portland State.
“It’s going to take more time to tell how they compare to some of the other pitchers I’ve coached, in terms of a twosome, they’re really similar to the ’91 staff, where one throws hard and the other one throws mostly junk stuff. It’s been really effective to have Morgan come in at the end of the game. The other teams really can’t adjust to her in one inning,” Mariani said.
“Both of them are still improving, and I was glad to see this weekend that their walks were down. They struggled early there but once that is consistent, they’ll be able to do very well, and they’re both still only sophomores.”