Kasner leads Vikings to GNAC title
The Western softball team won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship tournament title Sunday, May 7, claiming their first conference title since 2011. They defeated the Western Oregon University Wolves 5-0 in the championship game.
Freshman Anna Kasner led the way in the tournament for the Vikings, winning the MVP award. Kasner threw a two-hit shutout on Sunday and an eight-inning, 13-strikeout performance on Saturday, as well as 4.2 innings of scoreless relief on Thursday’s tournament opener.
Kasner threw 19.2 innings, didn’t give up an earned run, and collected 23 strikeouts and all three wins for the Vikings. She also batted .454 for the tournament (5-for-11).
“She’s consistent, she’s a gamer,” head coach Amy Suiter said. “I can’t say I didn’t expect it from her, because she’s set that expectation for herself.”
Kasner and Suiter both said the defense played a big part in the win. The Vikings didn’t have a single error in all three games. When Kasner got into a jam with runners on first and second base in the top of the second inning, she said her defense helped her mental game.
“I [was] just like, ‘Anna, just throw the pitch because no matter what you pitch, [your defense has] got you,’” Kasner said.
Kasner said the tournament overall was a great experience, and has given the Vikings momentum going forward to the national tournament.
“We have an 11-game winning streak, which is insane,” Kasner said.
Senior Kali Patterson knocked in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly, the first of five runs scored in the bottom of the second inning.
“She’s consistent, she’s a gamer. I can’t say I didn’t expect it from her, because she’s set that expectation for herself.”
Amy Suiter, head coach
The Vikings were able to produce their runs with just four hits, thanks to some excellent at-bats and pitch reading; they walked eight times as a team, including three for lead-off hitter sophomore Shearyna Labasan.
Junior Makinlee Sellevold recorded two RBIs on a single pulled through the left side, extending her Western single-season record for RBIs to 51.
This season, the team has adopted the motto of winning every inning.
However, it’s not the only thing the Vikings consider when playing. They constantly put and think about the team first.
When asked about winning the MVP award for the tournament, Kasner said the entire team really deserved it, and said she was thankful for all of them.
Patterson also knocked in the go-ahead run on Saturday with a walk-off single in the bottom of the eighth inning, and mentioned her fellow players.
“Anything I can do to help my team is all I want to do,” Patterson said.
The fact that it wasn’t always the big stars of the team getting the crucial plays speaks to the team’s’ depth, Suiter said, and bodes well for the future.
“When everybody starts clicking over the next couple weeks, some good things could happen,” Suiter said.
The win secured the Vikings’ first trip to the NCAA Division II national tournament since 2011.
“I’m really excited. Since I’ve been [at Western,] we’ve never been [to regionals,] so it’s just a new experience,” Patterson said.
The Vikings will be playing in Seaside, California against the host team, Cal State Monterey Bay, on Thursday, May 11 at 5:30 p.m. in the double-elimination tournament.