Vikings turn in an explosive offensive performance against McMinnville

Forest Grove's bats are heating up just in time for the start of Pacific Conference play, and that's great news for first-year softball coach Trevor Tusow.

The Lady Vikings belted two home runs in a 17-2 rout of Lake Oswego last Monday, and they were back at it this week, opening league play on Monday with 11 hits - including another homer from senior Natalie Sydenstricker - in a 10-1 beatdown of rival McMinnville.

'Their confidence is starting to build,' said Tusow, whose team improved to 7-4 on the season. 'They're starting to realize that they're very capable offensively. Now hopefully they'll realize that they're very capable defensively too.'

After losing two of their first three games, the Lady Viks bounced back by winning five of their next six, culminating with last Monday's double-digit win against Lake Oswego.

Senior Allison Thorud hit a two-run home run to spark a seven-run rally in the top of the second, and Sydenstricker hit a three-run shot an inning later to give Forest Grove an 11-0 lead. The Lady Viks scored six more runs in the fourth and the rout was on.

'The girls came out real aggressive,' Tusow said. 'They made some quick adjustments and hit the ball really well. We capitalized on a couple of mistakes that Lake Oswego made, and we made them pay for it.'

Sydenstricker went 4-for-5 with a double and her first home run of the year, and fellow senior Taylor Lira was 4-for-5 with four singles.

The only blemish of the week came last Thursday when foul weather forced Forest Grove to pack up and take its scheduled home game on the road to The Dalles-Wahtonka. The result was an uninspired 6-0 loss to the Eagle Indians.

'We didn't really show up mentally the way we did for the Lake Oswego game,' Tusow said. 'We just didn't do what we needed to do. We had some baserunners, we had some walks and some hits, we just couldn't string the hits together.'

The Dalles scored a run on a wild pitch in the first inning and led 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth, when a five-run rally busted the game open.

'We got a runner to third (base) in the first inning,' Tusow said. 'We had runners on in the second, the third, the fourth, the seventh - we just never could get that timely hit to drive in a run and get the momentum going.'

Memories of the loss faded quickly, however, and the Lady Vikings were able to bounce back with a convincing win over McMinnville to begin Pacific Conference play.

Forest Grove broke open a tie game in the fourth inning, going ahead 4-1 on Jorie Gronseth's two-out, two-run single back up the middle.

'That was huge,' Tusow said of Gronseth's base hit. 'There were two outs, (Mac) had just walked in a run, the bases were loaded, and she came up with a clutch hit for us.'

The Lady Vikings put the game away with four more runs in the sixth inning, three of them coming on Sydenstricker's home run to right-center field.

Marissa Reichard drove in the final two runs with an RBI triple off the fence in left-center, and she also picked up the win in the pitcher's circle, striking out 12 batters and allowing three hits over seven innings.

The Pacific Conference schedule gets into full swing next week, and Tusow is optimistic about the strides his team has made already.

'It's a long season and you're always going to have a couple games where things aren't clicking on all cylinders,' he said. 'We've been in a number of close games already, and I think we've gained some confidence from that.

'There's still plenty of room to grow, but overall I'm really pleased.'

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