Vikings split doubleheader with No. 19 Ducks

The Portland State softball team split a pair of games with Oregon in Eugene on Wednesday, defeating the Ducks 4-1 in the second game of the night after a 5-4 loss in the first ended the Vikings’ eight-game winning streak.

The Portland State softball team split a pair of games with Oregon in Eugene on Wednesday, defeating the Ducks 4-1 in the second game of the night after a 5-4 loss in the first ended the Vikings’ eight-game winning streak.

Going into the final weekend of the regular season, the Vikings can carry the momentum of defeating a ranked opponent for the first time since Feb. 2008 into this weekend’s battle with Seattle University for first place in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference’s Mountain Division.

“We’re in a good place,” said head coach Tobin Echo-Hawk. “We’re playing well, we’re pitching well. With that comes confidence, and with confidence it doesn’t matter who you play. We think we’re ready.”

The Vikings had a chance to sweep No. 19 Oregon (32-14, 7-8 Pac-10) but a slew of errors and six walks by the pitchers in Game One prevented Portland State (25-25, 14-2 PCSC) from leaving Eugene with an upset. 

Oregon starter Sam Skillingstad was chased quickly in the first game of the series, lasting only 2.1 innings against a Viking offense that has seen its productivity increase in recent weeks. After senior catcher Brandi Scoggins moved into scoring position with a double, senior second baseman Becca Diede began the scoring with a line-drive shot that cleared the fence for a two-run home run, Diede’s third of the season.

After scoring only one run in the bottom of the second, Oregon would expose what would plague the Viking pitchers in Game One, as a walk and an error brought around the first of the Ducks’ five runs. Second baseman Kaylan Howard led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on an errant throw by junior shortstop Arielle Wiser. A sac-bunt then advanced Howard to third and Allie Burger quickly drove a 0-1 pitch to center field for an RBI triple. 

The Vikings scored two more off of starter Skillingstad before she was pulled in favor of Mikayla Endicott. After getting four hits in 2.1 innings off Skillingstad, the Portland State lineup would be stymied as Endicott proceeded to strike out nine in her 4.1 innings of work, scattering four hits and allowing just one walk.

The Ducks then slowly chipped away at the Viking lead before tying the game in the fourth and plating the eventual winning run in the fifth. 

The Vikings got their revenge in Game Two, as sophomore pitcher Kendra Suhr made her second PSU start of the season, shutting out the Ducks over four innings. In a reversal of fortune the Vikings capitalized on three Duck errors, the last of which in the seventh inning all but put away the game for freshman Anna Bertrand, who collected her second save of the season.

Despite pitching a complete game and striking out 14 Vikings, Oregon pitcher Jessica Moore took the loss for the Ducks and Suhr picked up her first win of the season for PSU.

Suhr, who last started against the Beavers on April 21, has been markedly better than her 7.00 ERA suggests and may be a wildcard entering this weekend’s series against Seattle. Taking away two outings in which she gave up 12 earned runs in only three innings, Suhr has otherwise tallied sixteen innings to the tune of 3.06 ERA, nine of which innings against Pac-10 opponents. 

Using Suhr on Wednesday was part of Echo-Hawk’s plan to not only use each of her pitchers in the doubleheader against Oregon, but to stretch them out for the possibility of using all four again against Seattle this weekend. 

 “We’re going to do whatever it takes to win and if that means we have to keep the hitters off balance by mixing it up [with the rotation] that’s what we’re going to do,” Echo-Hawk said.  

The Vikings have played Seattle once already this season in a non-conference match-up at the Husky Softball Classic in Seattle. In that game Portland State let a victory slip away as a five-run sixth inning sunk the Vikings in what would be Seattle’s second win of the season. Both Seattle and Portland State have improved markedly since their matchup on March 14, Seattle running off a 14-12-1 record while Portland State has gone 18-11.

On paper, Seattle hits slightly better than Portland State, posting a .736 on-base plus slugging percentage to Portland State’s .672 mark. Despite the difference in OPS, Portland State draws even with Seattle in most other offensive categories and thusly the series will likely come down to a battle of pitching staffs—an area where Portland State has a marked advantage. 

Seattle comes into the series sporting a 4.69 ERA, striking out 115 batters to 69 walks in 283 2/3 innings. Contrasted with Portland States 2.95 ERA, 296 strikeouts and 140 walks in 327 1/3 innings, the Vikings have a clear advantage with a rotation that boasts four pitchers that have shut down some of softballs elite at different points this season. 

“We’re just approaching it the same as we’ve done all conference,” Echo-Hawk said. “We’re doing what we need to do and the girls are really focused and ready to go. It really doesn’t matter what they throw at us, I think we’re going to be prepared for it.” 

The Vikings face Seattle at Erv Lind stadium, where Portland State has been perfect against conference opponents this season, with the only losses at home coming against No. 1 Washington, No. 19 Oregon and Oregon State. 

Line scores

Game 1                                            R    H    E
Portland State    202    000    0    –    4    8    3
Oregon               011    210    X    –    5    4    1

Game 2                                            R    H    E
Portland State    010    100    2    –    4    8    2
Oregon              000     010    0    –    1    8    3 ?