Forest Grove upends first-place Glencoe to guarantee a berth in the state playoffs
Last year, the Forest Grove softball team missed the state playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades. With that streak broken, this year's team set out to re-establish the program's long history of postseason appearances.
Did they ever.
With two Pacific Conference wins last week, including a thrilling 2-0 victory over league-leading Glencoe, the Lady Vikings locked up second place in the conference and guaranteed themselves a spot in the Class 6A state playoffs, which begin with play-in games this week and continue with first-round action next Monday.
'The girls are really excited,' said first-year Forest Grove head coach Trevor Tusow. 'Last year we missed the playoffs and the girls wanted to restart that tradition. They feel really good about how they ended the regular season. They're definitely playing good softball right now.'
Forest Grove (17-7, 11-3) began last week with a 6-1 win against Tualatin on Tuesday, and they followed that up on Thursday with a gritty 2-0 victory over No. 7 Glencoe, avenging an 11-inning loss to the Crimson Tide back in April.
Senior pitcher Marissa Reichard was the catalyst in both victories last week, giving up just one run and six hits over 14 innings, and she also contributed a 3-for-3 performance at the plate in Tuesday's win over Tualatin, including a two-run triple in the fourth inning.
Reichard scored three times against Tualatin, coming home in the first inning on a hard shot back up the middle by Natalie Sydenstricker, then scoring in the third on another sharp line drive by Sydenstricker.
Reichard made it 6-0 in the fourth when she tripled to deep left-center field and then scored on a passed ball.
Tualatin scored a run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the only blemish on Reichard's otherwise stellar week, which included 18 strikeouts in 14 innings of work.
'Marissa was mad at herself for giving up those hits and that run, but we'll take a 6-1 win any day,' Tusow said. 'We needed to win that game to guarantee a playoff spot, and she had a great all-around game.'
On Thursday, the Lady Viks traveled to Glencoe for a rematch of their tough 11-inning loss on April 23. This time around, Forest Grove scratched out a run in the second inning, then leaned on Reichard in the pitcher's circle and a stellar defensive effort behind her.
Taylor Schmitt got things started with a one-out single in the second inning, and she moved to third on a stolen base and a fielder's choice. With two outs, Alexis Richey ripped a single to left field that scored Schmitt and gave the Lady Vikings a 1-0 lead.
Richey then turned in the defensive play of the game in the bottom of the second, charging in to make a sliding catch in left field, then alertly throwing to second base for a double play that ended the inning and cut short a potential Glencoe rally.
That was all the support Reichard would need, as the senior allowed only three more baserunners the rest of the game.
'It was one of those games where you knew that one run would probably win it,' Tusow said. 'We're a much more confident team when we score first. Marissa threw a great game and the defense was really strong behind her.'
That win locked up a second-place finish for the Lady Viks, who will play a pair of tune-up games before beginning the state playoffs next Monday.
'We knew we had an automatic bid to the playoffs, but there was still a lot riding on that game,' Tusow said. 'We had a chance to secure second place, but we also wanted to get Glencoe back for that loss earlier in the season. That was a tough one, and I thought it probably should have gone the other way, so the girls were really excited to play them.'
Forest Grove will host Aloha on Thursday at 5 p.m. for its final game before the playoffs.