Swept out of town

As the rain poured in Portland this weekend, the Vikings’ offense poured on the runs and chased hapless San Diego out of town with a dominating four-game sweep at Erv Lind Stadium.

As the rain poured in Portland this weekend, the Vikings’ offense poured on the runs and chased hapless San Diego out of town with a dominating four-game sweep at Erv Lind Stadium.

The wins over the Toreros (13-26, 0-4 PCSC) kicked off the Pacific Coast Softball Conference regular season schedule on a positive note for Portland State (21-17, 4-0 PCSC), which has stormed back from a rocky start to win 12 of its last 13 games.

“What we’ve been able to do is find the right gel in our lineup,” said head coach Amy Hayes. “It was a tough weekend. San Diego is a tough team. Their record doesn’t show how good they are.”

The streak started on Sunday, March 9, the last day of the UNLV Invitational, as Portland State salvaged its weekend with a 3-2 win over Southern Utah. Then it was back to the confines of the Vikings’ home field, Erv Lind Stadium, which has been particularly friendly as of late. The Vikings have won 13 straight games at Erv Lind dating back to last season.

“It’s a great home field advantage,” Hayes said. “I wish our weather would get a little bit better. We play really well at home. It’s exciting. It’s a great little atmosphere at Erv Lind. There’s a lot of history at that park and it just rises up around us and we’re able to play our best ball there.”

It was at Erv Lind that the Vikings began to click on offense. The eight-run mercy rule ended games three times in the last 13 games and the Vikings have averaged six runs over that span.

The pitching picked up, too. The Vikings have given up four or more runs just five times since the Southern Utah win, losing just one of those contests.

“Mandy [Hill] is just a bull. She gets it done,” Hayes said. “She wills her way to success some times. It’s also the mental side. We hit conference and she stepped it up a notch. She’s a senior. This is her time.”

The weekend set of two doubleheaders also provided the Vikings with the opportunity to notch some records. Hill (11-10, 2-0 PCSC) recorded her school-record 59th career win in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, and got victory No. 60 the next day, while Hayes recorded her 200th career win as a coach Saturday.

Portland State won two close games Saturday, winning 7-4 and 6-5. In the first game, Portland State trailed 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth before the offense exploded for five runs.

In the second game, Hill went 2-2 with a homer and three RBIs, and the Vikings held on for a wild 6-5 win after rallying from 5-4 down by plating runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Freshman Nicole Latham (8-6, 2-0 PCSC) got the win despite allowing five runs.

“[Latham] didn’t have her best outings but she still got two wins,” Hayes said. “As a freshman, she’s having a good season.”

On Sunday, the Vikings beat the Toreros 9-1 in a mercy-rule shortened five-inning game, and 8-5, after the offense came alive in the third inning and scored six runs. Hill got her 11th win and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in the second game for her first save of the year. Latham won the game for her sixth straight win.

Junior Jackie Heide hit .636 on the weekend, helping the team to a .377 average for the weekend.

“I think some of our keys were our two Battleground kids, Mandy Hill and Arielle Wiser. They just did a job at the plate this weekend,” Hayes said. “Overall, just everyone contributed.”

With the four-game sweep, Portland State finds itself on the top of the PCSC. League favorite Loyola Marymount struggled last weekend, dropping three of four games. Hayes said this weekend’s four-game series against Sacramento State could determine the conference championship, and with it, the right to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

“Sac State is a great team. They have the toughest schedule in the conference,” Hayes said. “We’re sitting very similar. This may end up being our conference weekend, in week two. We want to go in with our A-game.”

The Vikings play two doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday in Sacramento.

“We don’t have that conference tournament. Every inning, every pitch, every game counts. We don’t get any do-overs. You either win the series or you don’t,” Hayes said. “We’ll see. You can’t look beyond everyone.”