Heading into a four-game series against Loyola Marymount this weekend, the Portland State softball team finds itself in an unfamiliar position under second-year head coach Amy Hayes.
Heading into a four-game series against Loyola Marymount this weekend, the Portland State softball team finds itself in an unfamiliar position under second-year head coach Amy Hayes. The Vikings (18-26, 3-4 Pacific Coast Softball Conference), who won the PCSC title last season and are 5-2 in conference series under Hayes, are currently in fourth place in the conference standings, 2.5 games behind first-place Loyola Marymount (33-16, 6-2 PCSC).
After stumbling to three losses at the hands of St. Mary’s last weekend, the Vikings are beginning to feel the desperation of their series with the first-place Lions. Portland State only has 12 conference matchups remaining to close the gap and continue its pursuit of repeating as conference champions.
The key to this four-game affair versus Loyola Marymount will undoubtedly be the consistency of Viking pitching. Junior right-hander Mandy Hill has already pitched nearly 220 innings on the season. Although Hill has welcomed the challenge, maintaining a 2.29 ERA and punching out 163 batters, she has showed signs of wearing. In the final two innings against St. Mary’s last weekend, Hill allowed an uncharacteristic 10 runs and 12 hits. The Vikings will need their ace to regain her swagger and pitch in full force to stand a chance against the Lions.
Hill, freshman right-hander Janice Damo and the rest of the Viking pitching staff should pitch freshman first baseman Christine Foley especially carefully. Foley was honored as the PCSC Player of the Week for a second time this season, after an outstanding performance against Sacramento State last weekend. The freshman compiled a .615 batting average and drove in the game-winning run in the top of the seventh inning on Monday. She is hitting .415 with 54 hits and 25 RBIs this season.
At the plate, the Viks should strive for five. That is, to score at least five runs in each game, because the squad is 11-2 on the season when scoring five or more runs. Runs may come at a premium against the Lions’ pitching staff. Led by junior right-hander Tiffany Pagano and freshman right-hander Melissa Dykema, combining for 33 wins and 337 strikeouts, Loyola Marymount’s staff averages a 2.60 ERA on the season. Giving the Vikings even more reason to strive for five, the Lions are a combined 31-8 when teams score five or fewer runs this season.
The conference rivals square off in a pair of doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, with the first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Lions’ Smith Field.