GNAC-leading Saint Martin’s softball splits doubleheader with Western Oregon

Pitcher Sam Munger was a sophomore on the Saint Martin’s softball team two years ago that won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season title and clinched a spot in the NCAA Division II West Regional tournament.

She believes this year’s Saints squad has the talent — “I think we have probably more now,” she said — to equal what the 2013 team accomplished.

But to get there, she knows there’s work to do. The first-place Saints (28-14, 8-2 GNAC) split their Saturday afternoon conference doubleheader with second-place Western Oregon (15-22, 7-5), taking the first game, 9-5, before a first-inning deficit in the second game was the culprit in a 6-1 loss that ended the Saints’ conference-best seven-game winning streak.

Saint Martin’s entered the weekend on a high note, winning six of seven games at Cal State Stanislaus’ tournament in Turlock, California, last week — including a 6-5 victory over Cal State Monterey Bay, a No. 1 seed at last year’s West Regional, in the title game.

Munger earned all-tournament MVP honors, too, hitting .583 over those six games and compiling a 0.83 ERA.

Saints coach Rick Noren said while his team’s aggressiveness and confidence rose at the tournament, they were hesitant against the Wolves in their doubleheader at SMU Softball Field.

“It didn’t carry over today,” he said.

In Saint Martin’s 9-5 victory in the opener, shortstop Alyssa Slate went 2 for 2, scoring three times, and Munger went 3 for 4 with three RBIs. She also scattered seven hits and struck out three in a complete-game victory to improve to 15-3.

In the second game, Western Oregon jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning off Saints starter Lindsay Miller (6-3).

It was a 3-1 game entering the sixth, but a Lexi Jennings solo home run to left field made it 4-1 for the Wolves.

Three more Western Oregon hits off Saints pitcher Kim Nelson, who pitched 62/3 innings of relief, and a throwing error led to two more runs in the seventh.

From now until the GNAC tournament April 30-May 2 in Yakima, it’s all conference opponents — beginning with a home doubleheader against Simon Fraser on Monday at noon.