Western softball’s season ends at GNAC title game
May 7, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Western Washington University softball bounced back from a first-round loss at the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships, winning twice before falling in the title match and seeing its season come to an end Saturday at Simon Fraser University.
Third-seeded Western’s bid at back-to-back conference championships fell short as the Vikings ended their season 26-23 overall.
Game one: Saint Martin's 12, WWU 4 (six innings)
The Vikings began day one of their tournament suffering a 12-4 loss to Saint Martin’s on May 4.
WWU led 1-0 heading into the second inning with a solo home run by freshman shortstop Hailey Rath.
SMU would tack on seven runs across the first four innings while holding the Vikings scoreless until the fifth inning. WWU sophomore third baseman Amaya Davis hit a two-run single in the fifth, and Rath hit her second homer in the sixth to close the gap at 7-4.
The Saints exploded for five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, bringing the eight-run rule into play and securing the win.
Game two: WWU 6, Western Oregon 3
Game two saw the Vikings rebound from their loss against Saint Martin’s with a 6-3 win over Western Oregon on May 4.
WWU held a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on two run-scoring groundouts before Western Oregon responded in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead.
Rath hit a two-run double in the fifth inning returning the lead to the Vikings and ultimately clinching the victory.
Senior pitcher Mareena Ramirez held Western Oregon to three runs on 10 hits. Rath completed the game 3-for-4 at the plate and three RBIs.
Game three: WWU 15, Saint Martin's 6
The Vikings dominated their rematch with the Saints, vaulting to a 15-6 win on May 5 and fending off elimination to earn a spot in the GNAC title game.
After trailing 3-0 in the fourth inning, the Vikings turned up the heat.
WWU coach Sheryl Gilmore’s ejection from the game only served to ignite the Vikings as they erupted for 15 combined runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
At the top of the fifth inning, the Vikings scored five runs on six hits, highlighted by a two-run triple from catcher Emily Paulson and a bunt-double by senior Brooke Fesenbek.
Saint Martin’s tied the game at 5-5 with a run at the bottom of the fifth inning, but Brooke Fesenbek’s grand slam in the top of the sixth put the Vikings back up for good.
At the top of the seventh inning, leading 10-6, sophomore Kanilehua Pitoy smashed a grand slam to give the Vikings an even bigger cushion and secure the win.
Senior pitcher Mareena Ramirez earned her 18th win of the season, allowing eight hits and six runs. Rath set the GNAC Championships record with four intentional walks, while junior Isabel Cargill added a three-hit game, going 3-for-4 with two runs.
GNAC championship: Northwest Nazarene 3, WWU 2
Western Washington closed out its season with a 3-2 loss to Northwest Nazarene on May 6.
Although WWU out-hit its opponent 7-6, the Vikings weren't able to turn those into enough runs to stay alive.
NNU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, before WWU scored a run in the second inning, tying the game at 1-1 on a single by Paulson.
Neither team would score again until the top of the sixth inning when NNU took a 3-1 lead.
WWU punched back with a second run in the bottom of the seventh inning but was unsuccessful in capturing a third run to tie the game.
Rath finished the tournament with a .727 batting average to lead all players. Ramirez finished with four strikeouts, giving her 174 on the season to rank fourth in WWU single-season history.
WWU has advanced to play in six of the 10 GNAC Championship tournaments, winning titles in two of the last six seasons (2017 and 2021). The Vikings are 10-8 all-time in GNAC Championships play.