Softball heads into hibernation

Wrapping up their fall schedule with a 4-1 loss to Oregon State University, the Portland State softball team goes into the winter break with the confidence that spring will bear voluminous fruit.

Wrapping up their fall schedule with a 4-1 loss to Oregon State University, the Portland State softball team goes into the winter break with the confidence that spring will bear voluminous fruit.

The Vikings played four teams over the weekend, going 2-2 to finish fall play 5-3.

Saturday saw the Vikings play University of Oregon and Southern Oregon in Eugene, with the Vikings splitting the pair of games. The 1-0 victory over the tournament-hosting Ducks, stemmed from another brilliant start by freshman Anna Bertrand.

“Anna, she did a great job,” said head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk. “She got herself into some holes in the first inning…but got herself out of it. So that’s always nice to see that if she does ever get herself in a hole she can work herself out of that.”

The Vikings dropped the second game, 3-1, to Southern Oregon with the offense unable to pick up the pitching.
On Sunday, Portland State resumed play in Corvallis. The offense lifted the Viks over Concordia, 8-1, in the first game, but then dropped the second to hosts Oregon State, 4-1.

The team entered fall play with lingering questions regarding their bevy of young talent. With a fresh outfield, and senior third baseman De’Chauna Skinner moving to first to accommodate freshman Carly McEachran at the hot corner, a lot has been answered in regards to where the team’s talent level will be in the spring.

Among the answers is how well the defense has clicked in just two weeks of fall play. Already, the defense appears more fluid than it did in the team’s first fall tournament. Nowhere was this more apparent than the newly converted first baseman Skinner, who is already proving to be a reliable target.

“I think that it’s two more weeks of working together. They’re starting to get used to each other and getting used to the position,” Echo-Hawk said. “First base was going to be a big hole for us and I think that De’Chauna is doing a great job.”

As much as the defense has shown improvement from one tournament to another, the team’s strength in pitching once again stole the show over the weekend.

Bertrand continued to dominate, and tacked on another impressive outing in addition to her shutout of Oregon. She struck out five Concordia batters on Sunday on her way to wins in both games.

Senior Tori Rogers started the nightcap against the Beavers and, though she allowed four runs, she struck out four and only allowed three hits. Most of the damage against her came in the later innings as she outpitched Oregon State’s pitcher to the tune of one run and a hit over the first three innings.

Rogers lost a significant amount of zip and accuracy with her pitches as the game wore on, an issue that Echo-Hawk is not worried about.

“She’s coming off her foot injury, so she hasn’t thrown a lot,” she said. “I think once she gets a little bit more into pitching shape and trusting her foot a little bit more I think she’ll be fine. From the beginning of the game she had that swagger that she normally has. It was good to see her have that, we just need to make sure we can finish it.”

In addition to Bertrand and Rogers, the Vikings have yet to test the progress of Pacific Coast Softball Conference Pitcher of the Year Nichole Latham. Also recovering from a foot injury, the junior has not been able to participate in this year’s fall tournaments.

With winter fast approaching, Echo-Hawk has been pleased with the level of improvement she has seen in two short weeks and believes that the confidence gained over the fall will translate to success once the season starts.

“They’re starting to gain that confidence. [A lot] were freshman and nervous, and trying do so well,” she said.

“They’re starting to get a little of their swagger, so it’s nice to see them have a little confidence going into the spring.”

The softball team now turns their focus to practicing until Feb. 11, when they head to Tempe, Ariz., to participate in the Kajikawa Classic. The regular season begins March 23 at Erv Lind Stadium against the University of Oregon.