By Ben Bagley
Viking softball split the bill on their doubleheader date with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Valentine’s Day, falling in the first game by a final score of 4-1 and securing a 4-0 victory in the second.
“There are plenty of things to work on, but that is why we play these games,” head coach Sheryl Gilmore said.
The Thunderbirds compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is two competitive steps below where the Vikings compete, in the NCAA Division II.
“We didn’t play to our standard and how we know we are capable of playing,” Gilmore said. “We are definitely better than what we showed today.”
This was Western’s first regular-season game at home this year, after competing in two tournaments in California and Utah. The Vikings went 4-6 combined in those two tournaments, which featured some of the top teams in the NCAA Division II West Region.
“We have a lot to work on, but it’s all fixable,” Gilmore said. “Every time that we stepped on the field [in the previous two tournaments in California and Utah] we got better, but today we took a few steps back.”
The Vikings got off to a slow start in the first game. Although they were able to get runners on base, the team struggled to get hits when it mattered most and left seven runners on base through just the first three innings of play.
The team left 12 runners on base and hit just 2-10 with runners in scoring position in the first leg of the doubleheader.
“It’s just stringing hits together, that’s what it really comes down to,” junior first baseman Dakota Brooks said. “It’s just being smart with where the ball is being placed and where we need to hit it.”
Brooks recorded a hit in both games and two RBIs in the second game. Adding these outputs to her season totals, she leads the team with eight RBIs, two home runs, 27 total bases and a .750 slugging percentage. She also shares the lead in batting average (.389) and hits (14) with junior second baseman Chantelle Shimabukuro.
Earlier in the season, Brooks became just the second Western player ever to hit for the cycle. In other words, she is dominating at the plate in her first year as a Viking.
“[Being in the batter’s box] is my happy place. Staying relaxed has really helped me and having the support of my coaches and teammates has been nice,” she said.
On the mound, junior pitcher Anna Kasner put in yet another standout performance. After not playing in the first game, she tossed a complete game shutout to lead the Vikings to a victory in the second game.
“We had more aggressive at-bats and were just more aggressive in general,” Kasner said.
Kasner dazzled in the shutout, striking out nine. The star pitcher also delivered on the offense end, with a two RBI single in the fourth inning that padded Western’s lead.
This year, Kasner is 4-3 with a 1.71 ERA. She is holding opponents to a meager .202 batting average and is currently top five in all of the NCAA Division II with 61 strikeouts.
“[It’s just about] communication, like communication with my catcher and my infield,” Kasner said regarding her success this year. “Trusting my defense, trusting we have good at-bats. It’s a two-way street: If my infield puts trust in me, then I will put trust in them.”
Other notable performances from the Valentine’s Day games included junior outfielder Lauren Lo going 3-6 with an RBI, senior outfielder Jackie Lucido going 3-6 and drawing a walk, and Chantelle Shimabukuro going 1-5 with a run scored along with a highlight diving catch at second base.
Up next, the Vikings are set to kick off Great Northwest Athletic Conference play on Feb. 29 in a doubleheader against Simon Fraser University.
“We want to get back to who we are, and capitalize on the things we are good at. We have to get back to trusting the process, and hopefully the results will take care of themselves,” Gilmore said.
“The focus is just to keep progressing,” Kasner said. “We just have to play like we know how to play.”