Vale's Alexis Rodgers eyes home plate during a non-league game against Payette last weekend. The Lady Vikings are 10-0 and in the driver's seat in Eastern Oregon League play. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).
VALE – All along, coach Cirbi Morrison saw potential in the 2019 edition of the Lady Viking softball team.
When the Vikings opened up their season with three straight losses, Morrison observed moments of brilliance. She also noticed something else.
“These girls have a lot of fight in them,” said Morrison.
On April 5, Notus defeated the Lady Viks 17-3 in a non-league game. At that point Vale posted a 3-5 overall record with the bulk of the league season ahead.
“With only one week of practice at the beginning of the season, and facing very good teams, we had a rocky start. But I saw a lot of potential. As we were able to practice and develop that potential and the girls being able to understand how to work together as a team, they’ve been able to find a groove,” said Morrison.
After the Notus game the Lady Vikings rattled off six straight wins where their high-octane offensive striking power became a hallmark. Now, the Lady Vikings stand at the top of the Eastern Oregon league with a 10-0 mark and are ranked No. 10 in the state by the Oregon School Activities Association.
On April 30, the Viks defeated Burns 18-3 in five innings but dropped a non-league contest 7-5 to Homedale on May 1 and lost to Payette 8-3 Friday. Against Burns, Vale senior Gracie Jacobs was 4 for 5 with one single, a double and two walks. Teammate Alexis Cleaver was 3 for 3 and smacked three singles while Demia Harden was 4 for 4 and three singles.
Izzy Sigrah finished the Burns game 4 for 4 with a home run and a single.
Against Homedale, Ashlynn Hasselbach hit a home run while Sierra Cleaver hit a triple and Alexis Cleaver went 2 for 4 with a double and a single.
In the Payette loss, Viking pitcher Demia Hardin threw seven innings, racking up eight strikeouts.
Monday, the Lady Vikings defeated Burns/Crane a second time, 20-6.
Clearly league play is where Vale shows its strength. The Viks deftly avoided a mid-season descend into a rabbit hole of sputtering momentum. Only one league opponent – Nyssa – has stayed close to the Viks. Vale won both matchups against the Bulldogs, clinching a 5-4 victory in early April and a 11-10 win later in the month. The rest of the league games have been blowouts.
“There is really no secret to winning. You have to work hard and want to win while being focused for 21 outs of the game. The girls also have to be aggressive at the plate because if you can’t score runs you can’t win a game,” said Morrison.
Vale is very good at piling up runs. Vale leads the 3A ranks with 236 runs for the season so far.
Morrison said if there was a turning point for her team it arrived early, when Vale traveled to Wallowa County to face Enterprise/Wallowa/Joseph.
The Viks swept the twin bill against the Wallowa County team and did it with a strong offensive performance, said Morrison.
“I knew all the girls could hit the ball, and hit it well and the bats really started to come alive in those two games. It was a lot of fun to watch,” said Morrison.
Morrison said the Viks work and win well as a team.
Some players make a big statement on the field while others put in subtle, but crucial, performances said Morrison.
A good case in point, said Morrison, is the sophomore Sadi Thomas.
“She is a top-notch player. She is young and has really stepped up into the role she was put into this year. We put her behind the plate as catcher and she has done a great job for us,” said Morrison.
While Morrison is pleased her team is undefeated she was quick to caution the season isn’t over.
“It feels great being undefeated in league, but we still have three games left and we need to focus on those games one at a time so we can finish league undefeated, which is very possible,” said Morrison last weekend.
The Lady Vikings faced Ontario in a non-league game Tuesday and play at Irrigon Friday in a doubleheader to close out the season.
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