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Vikings win twice to secure postseason berth

Forest Grove earns a play-in game after beating South Salem and McMinnville

It was hard to keep a secret this big, but Trevor Tusow didn’t want to put too much pressure on his Forest Grove softball team.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD
 - Forest Grove's Kinsey Barnett slides safely into home plate during last Friday's wild 12-11 victory against conference rival McMinnville.

With two regular season games remaining, Tusow knew that the Vikings likely needed to win both to sneak into the postseason. But fearing that knowledge might unfairly burden his players, Tusow kept it to himself.

Whether the Vikings knew it or not, they came up with two clutch wins over South Salem and McMinnville last week to snap up one of eight spots in the Class 6A play-in round, which began on Tuesday.

“Really both games were pretty crazy,” Tusow said of his team’s 7-5 win over the Saxons last Wednesday and their thrilling 12-11 triumph over the rival Grizzlies on Friday.

“It was a couple big wins for us. Realistically, if we don’t win both, we’re probably out of the play-in picture. So winning both of those games was crucial.”

Forest Grove finished the regular season at 11-11 overall and 7-9 in Greater Valley Conference play, good for sixth place. The top four finishers automatically qualified for the state playoff field, while fifth-place Sprague joined Forest Grove in the play-in round.

The Vikings jumped on South Salem early last Wednesday, scoring four runs in the top of the first, but they opened the door by allowing three unearned runs on three errors in the bottom half. It wasn’t until the Vikings put up two runs in the fifth inning that they had enough breathing room.

“The girls did a good job of closing the door late in that game,” Tusow said.

The first-inning jitters returned on Friday at home against McMinnville for Senior Night, as the Vikings again committed several errors and allowed the Grizzlies to score three unearned runs.

“It started out not real well, and it was like, ‘Oh boy, here we go again,’” Tusow said of the sloppy start. “But we responded right back with three runs and both teams sort of settled in from there.”

Both teams may have settled down, but the game was a thrilling back-and-forth affair with lots of scoring.

Each team plated a pair of runs in the third inning to keep the score deadlocked at 5-5, and Mac got two more runs in the fourth to go back on top. That was when Forest Grove’s offense really erupted, dropping a five-spot in the bottom of the fourth for a 10-7 lead.

In that frame, the Vikings loaded the bases with two outs and Delaney Aleshire came through with a two-run single that briefly tied the score before Carissa Brown’s inside-the-park home run pushed across three more runs and gave Forest Grove its first lead.

“That was pretty cool for her to do that on Senior Day,” Tusow said of Brown’s game-changing home run.

The Grizzlies battled back with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth that again tied the score, but Forest Grove went back ahead for good in the bottom half. Aleshire drove in one run with an RBI groundout, and Kinsey Barnett singled, stole second base, moved to third on Aleshire’s groundout and scored what proved to be the winning run on a passed ball.

“It was tense. There was a lot riding on that game with it being Senior Night, playing against a rival with our backs against the wall,” Tusow said. “I was confident they would keep fighting, though. I knew they were in it for the long haul.”

Forest Grove was scheduled to visit Centennial for a play-in game on Tuesday. Results were unavailable at press time.