LACEY — One of the key messages Saint Martin’s University softball coach Rick Noren had after his team split Sunday’s doubleheader against Western Washington was hope.
“There was a little bit of fight,” said Noren, whose Saints won the first game, 6-5, in the eighth inning, followed by a 5-4 loss in the nightcap, which stretched into the early evening because of a 56-minute rain delay in the opener..
“I think it was a positive sign.”
Sunday was the end of the regular season for the Saints (26-20, 15-9 Great Northwest Athletic Conference), who head into this week’s GNAC tournament as the reigning tourney champions.
SMU will join Western Oregon (30-20, 18-6), Western Washington (30-12, 17-7) and Central Washington (27-16, 16-8) for the four-team, three-day tournament at Columbia Playfield in Richland with the GNAC’s automatic berth into the NCAA tournament at stake.
The fourth-seeded Saints open the tournament against No. 1 Western Oregon at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Noren has been encouraged by his team’s recent play, including a sweep of Simon Fraser on Saturday, and hopes it will carry over to the postseason.
Against Western Washington, the Saints rallied in the eighth after trailing, 5-4, in Game 1. Allie Lovitt came home ahead of Jackie Schmaeling, who scored the winning run after Tenino High School graduate Dani Wall started off the inning with a single.
The teams combined for 25 hits in the opener, and the offense continued into Game 2, with Western Washington grabbing a 4-2 lead after three innings. In the sixth, SMU’s Lacey McGladrey, whom the Saints honored as the lone senior for Senior Day, and Megan Miller had RBI singles to tie the score at 4.
Junior pitcher Sam Munger (19-14), who recorded a complete-game victory in Game 1, got her 200th career hit in the nightcap when she singled through the right side in the fifth inning.
Saint Martin’s 11-5, at Western Oregon 9-3: The Saints (15-28, 11-17 GNAC) swept the conference champion Wolves (29-17, 22-10) in Monmouth, Ore., winning the opener in 11 innings and the nightcap in eight.
Travis Shaw’s two-run single in the 11th inning broke a 9-9 tie in Game 1. A single by Chris Womac and Spencer Dodd’s hit into a fielder’s choice led to two runs in the eighth inning in Game 2.
The Saints remain alive for the final spot in the conference tournament with a four-game series at home against Central Washington on Friday and Saturday to end the regular season.
SMU sits two games behind Northwest Nazarene (16-27, 11-15).
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com @megwochnick theolympian.com/southsoundsports