Softball team crowned conference champs

When Portland State sophomore Anna Bertrand caught Loyola Marymount’s Kelly Sarginson with a called third strike on Saturday the result was more than an out, a win or a championship.

When Portland State sophomore Anna Bertrand caught Loyola Marymount’s Kelly Sarginson with a called third strike on Saturday the result was more than an out, a win or a championship.

It was redemption.

With that pitch, the Vikings put to bed a two-game sweep of the LMU Lions at Erv Lind Stadium to win the Pacific Coast Softball Conference Championship Series and avenge Portland State’s loss in last year’s championship.

“It feels so much better just to be on the winning end this time,” Bertrand said, standing just feet from where she threw the final pitch. “I mean, that’s what it’s all about right now—we came back and we did it this year.”

Third-year head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk agreed.

“It’s a sweet feeling because last year was a heartbreak, and this year—coming and winning in two games is a big deal,” Echo-Hawk said. “And it’s great because Anna was the one that was on the mound and last year she struggled. She had that bad taste in her mouth all year, and she overcame it and proved some stuff today.”

Playing for a crowd of nearly 300 on both days, Portland State defeated the Lions 3-2 in 10 innings on Friday before carrying the momentum into Saturday for an 8-1 victory in Game 2.

As league champions, the Vikings gain an automatic entry into this week’s NCAA Regionals with a season record of 34-16. Loyola Marymount finishes the season at 32-27.

Though Portland State swept the Lions out of the championship, the series was not won easily. Extra-inning offensive heroics were Friday’s storyline and Saturday saw the Viking defense shutting down multiple bases-loaded scenarios before the Lions were able to capitalize.

Sophomore Carly McEac-hran knocked in the game-winning run on Friday in a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the 10th inning. McEachran’s shot bounced off the fence in left field and was only about three feet shy of becoming a walk-off grand slam.

McEachran, who went 4-of-8 with 2 RBIs in the series, made no attempt to downplay the importance of her hit or the championship title.

“It was huge for us,” McEachran said Saturday. “We knew that we needed to come out and take care of business. It was just a matter of time. We broke through and became the team that I knew we would.”

Senior pitcher Nichole Latham got the start for PSU on Friday and worked a full seven innings before Bertrand was brought in to close out the extra innings. Latham gave up 10 hits and two runs—of which one was unearned—but forced LMU to strand runners in each of the first six innings.

On Saturday, the Vikings were the designated away team and the offense wasted little time before running away with the game.

Junior Jenna Krogh was the first to cross the plate after hitting a single from the leadoff position and advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore Danielle Lynn brought Krogh home on a would-be single that rolled under the glove of LMU’s center fielder for an error-induced triple.

From there, the Vikings went on a roll with two more runs in the second inning—including a first-pitch solo homer from junior Lacey Holm—before breaking the game wide open with a five-run fifth.

Bertrand, who returned to the pitching circle for the start in Game 2, did not go without being threatened by the Loyola Marymount offense. The Lions created bases-loaded situations in the first and fifth innings and had two more runners on in the seventh, but the Vikings were able to shut the innings down each time.

The Lions earned their lone run in the fourth on a solo home run from Kathryn Dutton.

“My defense was backing me up ad nauseum I think today,” Bertrand said. “They did a great job.”

Bertrand took the series’ Most Outstanding Pitcher honor for earning the win in both contests. In total, she gave up seven hits and one run in 10 innings of work while striking out six. Bertrand finished the series with a 0.70 ERA and has now won her last 11 decisions to improve to 16-8 on the season.

Lynn hit 3-of-4 on the day with one run and an RBI. Krogh hit .556 on the series with three runs and three RBIs to earn the series’ Most Outstanding Player selection, a nomination Echo-Hawk can back.

“It’s great to have Jenna Krogh lead us off because she makes things happen and she’s exciting to watch,” Echo-Hawk said. “When we get somebody on base that is as fast as she is, we can do some things. We scored that run [in the fist inning], and I think that gave us a little bit of confidence to keep going.”

Junior Sam Fischer led the Lions at the plate, going 4-of-9 with one run in the series.

As her team celebrated on the field after Saturday’s win, Echo-Hawk continued to praise her squad.

“You know, [the Lions] were going to do everything they could to win this game, and it just happened that everything fell into place for us,” she said. “Coming off yesterday—such an emotional win—sometimes it’s hard for a team to keep going in that direction, and they did a great job. They were excited from the start of warm-ups through the entire game, so it’s really a special experience.”

Portland State has won 21 of its last 22 games and extends its wining streak to 11 games—a program-best at the Division-I era—and is just one win shy of the school’s overall record of consecutive wins, set in 1991. Now with three PCSC championship titles, PSU ties Loyola Marymount for the most titles in the league’s nine-year history.

On Sunday, the NCAA announced the seeding and location for the 64-team championship. The Vikings appear in the Seattle regional and are set to face No. 14 Washington (34-14) Thursday evening. Also in the four-team region is BYU (38-16) and Auburn (39-17). The team to win the double-elimination regional will advance to face the winner of the Columbia Regional next weekend in the Super Regionals. Ultimately, the tournament leads to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Echo-Hawk said that she feels the Huskies are a good pick for the Vikings because of proximity and familiarity. She also added that the Vikings’ season or surprises isn’t over yet.

“The thing about it is, we’re not just happy to be in it,” Echo-Hawk said. “This team is really special and I think we are going to surprise some people next week. It doesn’t matter where we go, we’re just ready to play and show everybody that we are a great team.” ?