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Vikings softball win first West Regional title in conference history

WWU overcame 6-0 deficit to shock Cal State Dominguez Hills and advance to nationals

The Vikings celebrate after winning the West Regional Title against the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, at Viking Field in Bellingham, Wash. The Vikings became the first GNAC program to win a West Regional Title and advance to nationals. // Photo by Michael Potash, courtesy of WWU Athletics

The Western Washington University women’s softball team won the West Regional Championship after a walk-off home run by freshman third baseman Maleah Andrews, to defeat Cal State Dominguez Hills in a three-game series on Wednesday at Viking Field in Bellingham, Washington. 

The Vikings became the first GNAC school to win the softball West Regional title and advance to nationals. 

The Vikings started the tournament on May 9 with a 1-0 win over Azusa Pacific. Junior Kanilehua Pitoy walked it off in the seventh with a double to cap off a shutout performance by freshman starting pitcher Alli Kimball.  

“Something I’ve been trying to change in my mindset is realizing that pressure is a privilege and it's a privilege to be out there pitching in such a big game against Azusa Pacific,” Kimball said.

On Friday, the Vikings suffered their first defeat of the weekend to Cal State San Marcos. The Vikings rallied in the seventh, only to lose by a single run, 4-3. 

“The momentum that we gained in that seventh inning, we’re looking to take that with us,” head coach Sheryl Gilmore said.

The Vikings returned that afternoon for a rematch against Azusa Pacific.

The Cougars threatened to score in the top of the fifth inning but center fielder Taylor Khorami robbed a two-run homer with a highlight catch. The Vikings went on to win 3-0.

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Taylor Khorrami robs Azusa Pacific’s Mia Alvarez from a potential home run at Viking Field in game five of the West Region Tournament. The Vikings would win 3-0 on May 10, 2024, in Bellingham Wash. // Photo by Michael Potash, courtesy of WWU Athletics

Western needed to record back-to-back wins on Saturday, against San Marcos to extend their season. They came out strong in game one putting up 12 hits to win 7-1. 

In the win-or-go-home game three, the Vikings prevailed 2-1. Pitoy led off the sixth inning with a triple and was sent home by senior Emily Paulson, who hit the game-winning RBI.

“To get two wins against a great team, it just speaks to these guys’ grit,” Gilmore said. “They were determined when they showed up, and they just kind of had the belief that it was going to happen.”

The Vikings and Toros played a three-game series Tuesday and Wednesday to determine who would represent the West Region at the NCAA DII National Championships in Longwood, Florida.

After being down 3-1 against the Toros in game one, the Vikings mounted a comeback, a theme throughout the series. The Vikings tied it heading into the seventh thanks to Ashley Jacobson’s solo home run in the fourth and Paulson’s RBI single in the sixth.

“I tried to keep a clear mind [but] I was just going out there to see a pitch and drive it in,” Jacobson said. “[I was] just trying to help my teammates out any way I can.” 

In the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded, catcher Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez drew the game-winning walk to win game one 4-3. 

The Toros kept their season alive winning 3-2 in game two on Wednesday with dominant pitching from Mariah Ramirez.

The offense in the third and final game started early when Ramirez hit a grand slam to put the Toros up 4-0 in the top of the third.

The onslaught continued as Ramirez and infielder Kaylee Hull each added an RBI in the fourth to give the Toros a commanding 6-0 advantage. 

The Vikings needed an answer. In the bottom of the fourth, Andrewjeski hit a home run to get the Vikings on the board. In the fifth, Kanilehua Pitoy scored an RBI to make the score 6-2.

“I think sticking with [the] plan and seeing what pitch [Ramirez] was going to give … that's really what worked out for us today,” Western’s assistant coach Shearyna Labassan said.

The seventh inning started with a single by outfielder McKenna Crum and a single by Andrews. With zero outs, Pitoy launched a three-run homer and Jacobson scored the game-tying RBI to knot it at six and send it to extra innings.

“Every game is the same, there’s always going to be pressure but I was just proud of my team — they’re amazing and they helped me keep home,” Pitoy said. 

The comeback tie wasn’t enough. The Vikings had more magic left in them, delivering a must-see ending that would leave any spectator speechless and the Toros heartbroken.

At the bottom of the eighth, Andrews was up to bat. With all eyes on her, she nailed the walk-off home run to defeat the Toros 7-6. 

“I waited for my pitch and once I had it … I knew,” Andrews said. “I was a little unsure at first and then I saw it and then I was like ‘OK … everything is good now,’ — I wasn’t shooting for the home run … it just ended up happening, [but] I’ll take it!”

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The Vikings celebrate at home plate after freshman third baseman Maleah Andrews hit the walk-off home run against the Toros, in Bellingham, Wash., on May 15, 2024. The Vikings overcame a 6-0 deficit to win 7-6 and advance to the program’s first NCAA Division II Softball Championship appearance. // Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics

The win punched the Vikings’ ticket to the NCAA Division II Softball Championships as West Region Champions for the first time in program history. 

“It means everything,” Gilmore said. “This has been our goal from the beginning and we knew for that to happen, we just gotta win one game at a time, one pitch at a time … and continue to get better every single day.” 

Now, the Vikings will turn their attention to Longwood from May 19 to 25 at Boombah-Soldiers Creek Park. They're set on winning their first NCAA National Championship.

“I’m just so proud of this team … the most proud I’ve ever been,” pitcher Kaiana Kong said. “No matter if we were losing, the team always stays together … we go down as one and when we win as one — to have all of this love and support ... it’s just awesome.” 

All-West Region Vikings:

The Vikings had five members selected to All-West Region 2024 teams including:

Hailey Rath (D2CCA – 1st Team, NFCA – 2nd Team)

Kaiana Kong (D2CCA – 1st Team)

Emma Andrewjeski-Ramirez (D2CCA – 2nd Team, NFCA – 2nd Team)

Maleah Andrews (D2CCA – 2nd Team, NFCA – 2nd Team)

Alli Kimball (D2CCA – 2nd Team, NFCA – 2nd Team)

See more photos of the Vikings road to nationals below.

Aidan Fox-Bailey

Aidan Fox-Bailey is a sports and recreation reporter for The Front. He is a third-year student majoring in journalism and public relations with a political science minor. When not reporting, he enjoys watching baseball, eating delicious food and hanging out with friends. He can be reached at

Aiden Luhr

Aiden Luhr is a junior at Western and a sports reporter for The Front. He is a journalism news/editorial major and enjoys anything sports related. You can reach him at

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