Softball grabs weekend split

The Portland State Vikings’ softball team started the inaugural season of the Pacific Coast Softball Conference with its sights set on finishing in first place. After splitting two doubleheaders over the weekend in Los Angeles, the team now is simply trying to keep a winning record in the PCSC.

“We’ve got the splitsies,” said head coach Teri Mariani. “It’s not what we needed.”

Portland State will play its last six games of the season this week at home in Portland.

The Vikings (17-27, 9-7 PCSC) knocked Loyola Marymount (30-20, 11-5 PCSC) from first place by winning early games on both Saturday and Sunday, but the Lions won both nightcaps in Los Angeles and are primed to win the conference. The Vikings are in third place, one game ahead of early favorite Sacramento State.

Again, the Vikings got their wins behind the stellar, savvy pitching of senior Morgan Seibert (11-10).

“She has three tough games left,” Mariani said. “She definitely has the skills to win the rest of her games, but we have to give her the support at the plate.”

Seibert pitched a complete game four-hitter Saturday and followed it up by striking out 10 Lion batters in PSU’s 3-2, 10-inning win Sunday. She ranks 29th in the nation with 8.4 strikeouts every seven innings.

The Vikings got their bats on track just in time for Saturday’s win. After allowing Loyola Marymount to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning on a Jessica Grassi two-run homer, the Vikings erupted for five runs in the top of the seventh and ran away from the Lions 7-2.

Junior transfer Erin Stokey hit her team-leading fifth home run, doubled, and knocked in three runs. Senior Megumi Hackett, the Vikings’ leader in batting average, also doubled and had three RBI for the Vikings. Hackett is hitting over .330 and is second in the PCSC in batting average.

In Saturday’s nightcap, though, the Viking bats were silenced by LMU’s Krystal Kehr, who shut out the Vikings with a six-hitter. Viking freshman Michelle Hext allowed just seven hits, but two were home runs. Senior Nichole Ivie had two of the Vikings’ hits, and catcher Rose Rutledge hit her sixth double of the year, but Portland State stranded five baserunners in the 4-0 loss.

In Sunday’s opening contest, defense was no problem for the Vikings or the Lions. The teams were deadlocked at one after seven innings, and after both teams notched a run in the ninth, Seibert shut down the Lions in the top of the tenth. The Vikings were playing as the home team for Sunday’s doubleheader, as PCSC rules require. Maggie DeWall finally won the game for the Vikings in the bottom of the tenth. The freshman leftfielder singled in the winning run with the bases loaded. Besides going 3-5, DeWall also scored once and remained the Vikings’ leader in runs scored.

Sunday’s nightcap was over quickly as the Vikings lost 7-1. The Lions shot out to a lead against senior pitcher Megan Herscher with a crushing four-run first inning. LMU’s slugger Danielle Kaminaka hit her 12th homer of the year, a two-run blast, to start the scoring. Stokey knocked in the Vikings’ only run with a single in the sixth, but she slid into second base awkwardly and hurt her knee. She visited her doctor Monday and her status for the Vikings’ last six games is unknown. If Stokey is unable to play, Mariani says she will go with junior Rachel Manibusan, an outstanding defensive infielder, at shortstop.

The Vikings play Oregon State (29-24, 3-12 PAC-10) again Thursday in a non-conference doubleheader that starts at 4 p.m. at Erv Lind Stadium. The Vikings were shut out in two games against No. 25 Oregon State a week ago.

“They just crush the ball,” Mariani said.

The Beavers hit eight home runs and beat Portland State 9-0 and 8-0.

The Vikings then finish up their season with a pair of doubleheaders this Saturday and Sunday against the front-running University of Santa Clara Broncos (27-22, 9-3 PCSC). “If we sweep the series, we’ll take second. If we win three out of four, we’ll be tied for third. We have some control over what happens to us,” Mariani said.

The weekend series also features six seniors playing in their last games for the Vikings. Both weekend doubleheaders start at noon.

Portland State home games are free to all spectators. Erv Lind Stadium is a couple of blocks south of Halsey on N.E. 57th Avenue. The park is also just a couple of blocks north of the 60th Avenue MAX station.