Vikings back on top

When Portland State took the field at Northern Colorado on Saturday morning, the two teams were tied for first place in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference’s Mountain Division. However, by Sunday evening that had all changed.

When Portland State took the field at Northern Colorado on Saturday morning, the two teams were tied for first place in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference’s Mountain Division. However, by Sunday evening that had all changed.

The Vikings took three of four games from the Bears in Greeley, Colo. to become the lone team with a claim to first place in the division standings.

The Bears and Vikings split victories on Saturday, with Northern Colorado putting an end to Portland State’s 10-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory in Game 1 before the Vikings retaliated with an 11-2 drubbing in five innings.

The Vikings then carried the momentum into Sunday, where they won Game 3 of the series 4-0 before again run-ruling the Bears in five innings, this time with a 10-2 final score.

“It was a big day for us. We stepped up when we had to the most,” head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk said in a media statement. “Our offense came alive and our pitchers did an excellent job of keeping Northern Colorado in check.”

PSU now advances to a 26-16 overall record and 12-4 in the PCSC. The Vikings are one game ahead of second-place Utah Valley (18-24, 11-5 PCSC) and two games above Northern Colorado (14-34, 10-6 PCSC).

Going into the final week of league play, all that remains on the Vikings’ conference slate is an all-important four-game series against Weber State, the outcome of which will ultimately determine PSU’s postseason fate.

The team that wins the division title will host the winner of the Coastal Division for this year’s PCSC Championship Series—a best-of-three contest to determine who earns the conference’s bid to the NCAA tournament.

PSU has the advantage of being the best-hitting team in the PCSC. The Vikings are leading the 12-team conference with a team batting average of .349 against league opponents—a stat to which they held true over the weekend.

To the 16 hits the Bears earned over the four-game series, the Vikings belted out 37 hits and went .363 overall at the plate.

Junior outfielder Jenna Krogh led the Vikings with eight hits for a .613 batting average over the series. She is currently on a six-game hitting streak and has a team-leading 16 multi-hit games.

PSU’s strength is not confined to the plate, however, as the Vikings’ pitching staff of senior Nichole Latham and sophomore Anna Bertrand continued to stymie opposing batters.

Bertrand, who entered the weekend as the reigning Mountain Division Pitcher of the Week, kept her hot streak going. In 10 innings of work, she allowed seven hits with 10 walks and nine strikeouts.

Latham began the series as the sore-luck loser in Game 1 after holding the Bears scoreless through the first five innings of play. Going into the sixth, the Vikings held a 2-0 lead and Latham had given up just three hits until a two-run homer from Northern Colorado’s Megan Wilkinson tied the game in the bottom of the frame. Kailee Vessey then locked up the win for the Bears with a walk-off home run to right-center field in the bottom of the seventh.

In Game 2, Bertrand took to the pitching circle for a run-rule routing that was cut short after the fifth inning thanks to a Viking batting order that remained lively despite the prior loss. Freshman infielder Crysta Conn kicked off the scoring in the top of the first by sending her first pitch to right field for a two-run triple.

Freshman outfielder Becca Bliss earned her first career home run in the fourth with a two-run shot over the right-field fence before sophomore infielder Carly McEachran—the next batter—hit her team-leading fifth long ball of the season over the fence at right-center. As if leading 6-2 through four innings was not enough, the Vikings came alive for a five-run fifth inning to put the game away via mercy rule.

“I’m proud of the girls for coming back the way they did in the second game,” Echo-Hawk said.

On the day, Bliss hit 4-of-5 with one run and three RBIs, and McEachran hit 5-of-8 with two runs and an RBI. Bertrand held the Bears to three hits while walking six and striking out one.

Sunday saw a return of the Vikings’ combination of big bats and potent pitching, as the PSU’s sluggers combined for 20 hits while Latham and Bertrand held the Bears to just seven knocks.

In Game 3, two Vikings—junior Jenna Krogh and sophomore Danielle Lynn— hit perfect games at the plate while Latham held the Northern Colorado sluggers to just three hits for a complete-game shutout. Krogh went 2-of-2 at the plate and Lynn hit 3-of-3.

McEachran, who hit from the leadoff position for first three games of the series, is hitting .438 in conference play with a .771 slugging percentage to rank fourth in the league in both categories.

Game 4 saw Krogh return to the top of the batting order, where she has appeared for much of the season. Her return to the leadoff spot seemed to inspire, as she went 3-of-4 at the plate and scored three runs. Krogh leads the team with a .388 overall batting average and is hitting .412 in league games to put her in seventh in conference.

Bertrand—who took both games via the mercy rule and has now won five-straight decisions—leads the league with a .170 opposing batting average and ranks second for her 50 batters struck out.

After the weekend’s series, Latham advanced her pitching record to 14-8 on the season and Bertrand advanced to 11-8.

PSU ended the weekend’s road trip to Colorado with a non-conference meeting with Colorado State on Monday afternoon. The results of that game were not available as of press time.

The Vikings close out their conference schedule by hosting Weber State (12-34, 3-13 PCSC) in a four-game series on Saturday and Sunday. They then host Oregon State in a non-conference doubleheader to close out the regular season. ?