Vikings begin GNAC play with six-game home stand this week
March 5, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - by Alex Bigelow, WWU sports information intern
The Western Washington University softball team is primed for an early season test, beginning Great Northwest Athletic Conference play this week with three doubleheaders in four days at Viking Field on the WWU campus.
The 8-6 Vikings, who have won five of their last six games, begin the home stand Wednesday (1 p.m.), March 6, against 2012 conference champion Montana State Billings.
WWU then hosts Northwest Nazarene on Friday (1 p.m.), March 8 (1 p.m.) and Central Washington on Saturday (12 noon), March 9.
WWU head coach Amy Suiter (3rd year) understands the importance of the contests.
"We definitely have to come out ready to play," she said. "With six conference games right out of the gate, it's a big leap."
The Vikings have enjoyed early success, which included placing third among 28 teams at the MSUB Desert Stinger, because of improved offensive production. Through 14 games this season, WWU has scored 73 runs compared to 49 at the same juncture last year.
Alexie Levin (Fr., Everett) has played a key role, batting a team-high .469 (15-for-32), driving in 11 runs and scoring nine. Levin has accounted for all three of the Vikings' triples, leads the team with an .813 slugging percentage and is currently riding a six-game hitting streak.
"Alexie is just a great athlete," Suiter said. "She hits well, throws well and is a great all-around athlete."
Levin has also contributed as a pitcher, working 34-1/3 innings with a 2.45 earned run average.
WWU also has gotten strong production from lead-off hitter Camille Depew (Sr., Seattle/Seattle Lutheran), who is hitting .333 (17-for-51) with a six-game hitting streak. She leads the Vikings in hits (17) and has six stolen bases in eight attempts.
Also hitting over .300 for WWU are shortstop Haylee Baker (Jr., Poulsbo/Bainbridge) .371 (13-for-35), second baseman Kristen Allen (Sr., Arlington) .333 (13-for-39), outfielder Meghan Carrillo (Jr., Prunedale, CA/North Monterey Country) .316 (12-for-38), and catcher Jackie Rothenberger (Sr., Coquitlam, B.C.) .310 (13-for-42).
Rothenberger paces WWU with 15 runs batted in, and freshman Jordan Walley (Fr., Maple Valley/Tahoma) has provided power with a team-leading three home runs. Allen is working on a team-best seven-game hitting streak.
"We have a lot of depth all the way through the lineup," Suiter said. "We also have depth all the way through the bench. I feel like I can go to anyone at any time."
Heading the pitching staff is Jenna DeRosier (Jr., Kelso). She paces the young staff in innings pitched with 35-2/3, and has the top ERA in the GNAC at 2.36.
MSUB, which won the GNAC last year and finished 32-18, has started slowly with a 3-6 record. The Yellowjackets are second in the GNAC with a .301 batting average (71-for-236), but are struggling in the circle, surrendering 6.16 runs per game.
Northwest Nazarene limps into its matchup against the Vikings after losing four consecutive games by a combined score of 22-1. The 5-10 Crusaders have one of the GNAC's top power threats in junior outfielder Shelby Johnson. Johnson is hitting .357 (15-for-42) with four home runs and 12 runs batted in.
Central Washington, which leads the league in hitting at .319, has yet to win in five games this season.
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