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The Vikings beat Liberty 14-4 in their season-opener, nearly two years since their last game.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove pitcher Ella Taplin hurls a pitch during the Vikings' game against Liberty Tuesday, April 13, at Forest Grove High School. Warm weather has returned, and with it is the Forest Grove High School softball team, which kicked off its 2021 season with a 14-4 win over Liberty of Hillsboro Tuesday, April 13, at Forest Grove High.

The Vikings mustered just three hits in the game, but they made the most of five Falcons errors and a relatively strong pitching performance from junior left-hander Ella Taplin and senior Haleigh Cofelt.

"I think it was a great start because of the fact that we have been off for almost two years," Forest Grove head coach Tom Hickman said. "Just being able to get back on the diamond today was huge."

Hickman was hired at Forest Grove prior to the 2020 season, but with COVID wiping out last year's season and many of his girls unable to play much of last summer, they were both somewhat starting anew with the game against Liberty.

"Only our two pitchers are on the roster and playing the same positions as they did two years ago, so there were definitely some wide eyes out there to start," Hickman said. "But I thought they did a great job and ultimately we were able to overcome that and play softball."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove senior Carmen Sahlfeld runs for third base during the Vikings' game against Liberty Tuesday, April 13, at Forest Grove High School. The first-year coach isn't the only "newbie" to this year's Vikings, for Hickman spoke to a roster that boasts three freshmen and three sophomores. But amongst the upperclassmen, the Forest Grove skipper said the team will lean heavily on Taplin and Colfelt, seniors Kendal Thrush and Kamalei Tanaka, and captain, Carmen Sahlfeld, who he said will help to guide them through what will be an abbreviated 2021 season.

"She's (Sahlfeld) stepped up as a captain this year and hits lead-off for us," Hickman said, "But she also has really helped Katelyn Petersen with her slap hitting fundamentals. I expect a big season for her."

Hickman went on to say that there's nothing flashy about this year's squad, for they don't have a lot of power either at the plate or on the mound. But they do have talent and he said due to that lack of flash, will do things the old fashioned way — through hard work and attention to detail.

"I'm very detail-oriented and like to do things a certain way, and this team is very willing to listen and learn, so it hasn't been hard getting them to buy-in," he said. "We also don't have a lot of power hitting, and don't have power pitchers, so we need to manufacture runs, play solid defense and get our pitchers to hit their spots."

The coach thought that for the most part they did that against Liberty. He noted an expected level of jitters to start the game, but thought that his team in the field, at the plate, and on the mound settled down nicely after the opening inning.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove freshman outfielder Katelyn Petersen takes a cut during the Vikings' game against Liberty Tuesday, April 13, at Forest Grove High School. In addition to the upperclassmen noted earlier, Hickman added that junior third baseman Hailey Yon would be a key contributor to their success, while also citing sophomore shortstop Kaimalino Ingram and freshmen Katelyn Petersen and Megan Hall as players that would play big roles in any success they have going forward.

Hickman also said that he's excited about the team and program going forward, primarily due to existing and up-and-coming talent, but also as a result of what he feels is a strong community support system thirsty for a winner.

"I feel there's a lot of growth potential here," he said. "I think the biggest thing that I have seen is that the community will support us, and I think that's great for the kids. I want these players to be role models for young girls in the community. I think our program can grow by leaps and bounds, it's just going to take some time and TLC."

Against Liberty, Taplin and Colfelt combined to pitch six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits, while striking out 13 and walking three.


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