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Forest Grove upends Tualatin in conference play

SOFTBALL: Lady Vikings hand Tualatin its first Pacific Conference home loss in four seasons

Tualatin hadn't lost a league softball game at home in over four years. That changed last Thursday when Forest Grove came to town and snuck past the Timberwolves 1-0 with some late-game, heads-up baserunning.

Senior Nikki Kemper led off the sixth inning with a base hit and moved to second on a single by sophomore Emma Gronseth, who also twirled a masterful performance on the mound. With one out, Kemper alertly darted to third base on a pitch in the dirt, and she scored a few moments later when Lindsay Rennie rolled a seeing-eye single through the hole between shortstop and third.

'That was a great, heads-up play for Nikki to take third,' said Forest Grove head coach Ole Evenson. 'Without that, we don't score that run and who knows what happens.'

Tualatin mounted a comeback bid in the bottom of the seventh, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Gronseth buckled down and retired the next three hitters without allowing the tying run to score, locking up the win for Forest Grove and sending Tualatin to its first Pacific Conference home loss since 2002.

Gronseth went the distance for the Lady Vikings, striking out 11 and surrendering three hits.

'The last two games is the best I've seen her throw in the five years I've been with her,' Evenson said. 'She's really doing things well right now.'

Gronseth's prior outing was another gem, but it came in a losing effort against No. 3 Southridge last Tuesday. The sophomore struck out 13 batters in a complete game three-hitter, but Southridge was able to scratch out a pair of unearned runs to beat the Vikings 2-0.

Forest Grove had six hits to Southridge's three, but could not push a run across the plate.

'We hit the ball right at people,' Evenson said.

The Lady Vikings squandered scoring opportunities in the third, sixth and seventh innings, then committed two errors in the bottom of the sixth that opened the door for the game's only runs.