2006 Review: Vikings finish strong after slow start
May 11, 2006
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - After a slow start, the Western Washington University softball team put a solid finish on the 2006 season and placed third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
The Vikings lost 16 of their first 23 games, but posted a .581 winning percentage the rest of the way, finishing 25-29 overall and 12-12 in the GNAC.
When hitting well, Western was a consistent winner, going 22-3 when scoring three or more runs.
But the offense sputtered early, particularly during an 11-game stretch against California teams from March 12 to April 1. The Vikings managed just 14 runs and went 2-9, holding leads in only three of 78 innings.
"We had our top three hitters stay consistent all year," Western coach Lonnie Hicks said. "Unfortunately, we weren't getting clutch hits when the top of our order was getting on base. That was a real backbreaker for us. We got a number of runners on, we just didn't get the key hits when we needed them, and that occurred a lot throughout the season."
Western snapped out of its slump on the last day of the Cal State Stanislaus Tournament of Champions in Turlock, Calif., scoring 19 runs in three wins. That began a streak in which the Vikings won nine of 13 games.
Western later put together a five-game winning streak and finished the season winning four of six at home.
"When you start out like we did, you're looking uphill," Hicks said. "You can have a couple of good games and then take a loss, and it turns into one step forward and two steps back. We just couldn't get out of the hole. We had a couple of good runs, but then we'd run up against some tough teams."
Western was led by a quartet of conference all-stars. Senior outfielder Ashley Barber (Camas) and junior designated player Ashley Osman (Federal Way/Jefferson) were first-team selections, and senior second baseman Mandy Harvey (Coeur d'Alene, ID/Lake City) and junior pitcher Jackie Quint (Jr., Silverdale/Central Kitsap) were second-team choices.
Barber led the Vikings with a .406 average, becoming just the fourth player in school history to bat .400 in a season. She had a .448 on-base average with one home run and 21 runs batted in.
Osman was second on the team with a .373 average. She had three home runs, 22 RBI and a team-leading 10 doubles. She was particularly effective in GNAC games, ranking third as a hitter with a .443 batting average, and fourth as a pitcher with a 2.09 earned run average.
Harvey wrapped up her four-year career with another solid season at the plate. She batted .343 with one home run and 22 RBI, leading the Vikings with five triples and 15 stolen bases in 17 attempts. For her career, Harvey finished among the top 10 in five statistical categories - triples (tie 3rd, 12), hits (4th, 164), runs (4th, 89), steals (4th, 52) and RBI (tie 9th, 54).
Another key hitter was Amanda Shiflet (Stanwood), who led the Vikings with 25 RBI as a freshman. She batted .259 with one home run and a school-record five sacrifice flies.
Despite its struggles, the Viking offense still broke the school's single-season team and individual home run records. Western had 21 round-trippers overall with graduate student Jessica Wilkinson (Seattle/Garfield/UW) hitting seven.
Harvey and Barber had hitting streaks of 12 and nine games, respectively.
The Viking pitching staff was led by Quint, who set school single-season marks for strikeouts (155) and innings pitched (174.0). Those totals would have been higher had she not missed time late in the season with a shoulder injury.
Quint finished 12-12 with a 2.13 earned run average, but the Vikings scored two runs or less in 14 of her 27 starts.
"Jackie was dominant, but her run support wasn't there," Hicks said. "In my opinion, she probably should have been 20-4."
Osman also pitched, going 5-7 with a 2.98 ERA and tossing two shutouts, including a no-hitter against Northwest Nazarene.
Junior Nicole Walker (Kenmore/Juanita) had several rocky outings early in the season but led the Vikings with three shutouts, one a five-hitter in the final game of the season against Central Washington. Overall, she was 8-9 with a 4.75 ERA.
"Defensively, we were very solid," Hicks said. "Some games were lost due to a bad throw here or there, but overall we were solid. The pitching was more than adequate, we just did not produce offensively the way we should and can."
Still, Hicks said he looks at the parts of the 2006 campaign that went well as building blocks for next season.
"No coach and no team ever wants to be .500 or less, and I certainly am not pleased with final numbers," Hicks said. "But if you look at the things that were accomplished this year and the successes, I think it's going to help us for next season."
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