Softball undefeated in fall play

It may come as a surprise to some Portland State students, but the school’s softball team is about to wrap up a brief fall season. The team is allowed eight fall exhibition games, and it gives the coaches and players a chance to play some competitive ball prior to their regular season schedule. The main season will begin in the spring and recent games have taken place at the team’s new home field, The Gordon Faber Recreational Complex in Hillsboro.

The Lady Viks started off this abbreviated season on fire, going 6–0. The teams PSU matched up against were all smaller, in-state institutions.

PSU’s first opponent of the year was the Mt. Hood Community College Saints, who are the defending Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges champions.

The Saints soon realized they were sorely outmatched by PSU, losing 8–0 in a run-rule victory. Junior Karyn Wright was near flawless on the mound, pitching a five-inning complete shutout with zero walks and four strikeouts.

The Viking defense was clicking, with no Saint getting past second base. Most PSU players got into the flow offensively, with the team totaling 14 hits.

In the second game of a doubleheader, PSU later played Western Oregon University. The Wolves are fresh off their best season in school history, where they played their way into the Division II tournament. They offered stiffer competition for PSU but ultimately fell 3–2 in an evenly matched affair.

Sophomore Meagan Hendrix was the starting pitcher and had an impressive nine strikeouts, but balanced by giving up six hits. Wright came in as the closer and deftly handled each Wolves batter she faced.

The game’s hero was senior Brittany Hendrickson, who won the game with a walk-off hit in the seventh. Last season Hendrickson was the Vikings’ go-to player offensively, with a .338 batting average and 28 RBIs.

Next up for PSU was a game against Concordia University, who also had one of their best seasons ever last year, winning 34 games. Concordia was  recently accepted to the NCAA and will be eligible for Division II postseason play in 2017.

Their matchup with PSU was all about defense for both squads, but it was the Vikings who got the timely hit that led to a 1–0 victory.

Kristen Crawford, a junior transfer, made her Viking debut pitching a seven-inning shutout. PSU’s defense had zero errors and a clutch hit from sophomore Alex Flores was all the offense they needed for the W.

Another doubleheader was concluded with another PSU victory, this time against Clackamas Community College. Junior Melissa Masters, who won two games in 48 innings pitched last year, was all about the number two in this game. She gave up that many hits and walks, as well as throwing a pair of strikeouts in a complete game. The Viking offense really came alive in this game; they had 11 hits—including a triple—and the year’s first home run from senior Aubrey Nitschelm. Nitschelm is a leader by example and known as a fierce competitor in the
weight room.

Last weekend PSU had yet another doubleheader—this time both games were against the same opponent, Corban University. In game one the Lady Viks struggled early; the Warriors had an 8–2 lead going into the fifth inning. But the PSU bats came alive by scoring five runs in the fifth and three in the sixth. The final score was 10–8.

In the second game PSU was dominant. They took the momentum they gathered late in the previous game and it propelled them to another win, an 8–0 run-rule in five innings.

PSU softball has two more fall games remaining, against Northwest Christian University and University of Oregon, with both games taking place in Eugene on Oct. 25. Head coach Barb Sherwood sees the game against Oregon as a quality test for her team.

“Oregon’s always going to be good,” Sherwood said. “Since Mike White’s been there they have stepped up their game. Last year they were number one in the country at times. Playing against them is a chance to see where we are going into the spring.”

The recent stretch of games has also been an opportunity for PSU softball to get comfortable in their new stadium. It offers more sight lines for the masses to watch games, and plans are in the works for construction of a new press box and bullpen. The complex in Hillsboro will also offer a tailgating area. Winning their first six games at the new facility is a great start for a new era of PSU softball.

Coach Sherwood has been impressed with the positive attitude and enthusiasm from her players so far. They are four months away from their real season but are already shaping up to be a formidable opponent for anyone. They certainly hope to have a stronger spring than last year, where they went 8–36 (3–14 in conference).

Sherwood said, “They like each other, they play for each other, they have a happy-go-lucky mentality. They love being on the softball field.”