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The Vikings tally 14 hits in a nonconference game against the Falcons at Liberty High School.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Liberty's Katelyn Bickford sets to throw to first during the Falcons' game against Forest Grove Tuesday, May 8, at Liberty High School.With the softball season screeching to a halt, both Forest Grove and Liberty are jockeying for playoff position. It just so happened they did so against each other Tuesday night, May 8, and thanks to a handful of hot bats, the Vikings improved theirs, while the Falcons remain slotted for the play-in round.

Forest Grove's two through five hitters combined to go 12-for-17 with five doubles and five RBIs, in all totaling 14 hits en route to an 11-5 win at Liberty High School. The performance was a pleasant surprise for Viking head coach Katy Carrillo, who has been waiting patiently for the type of group effort she saw from her team Tuesday night.

"I feel good about the game because we've been needing to get our bats together as a team," said Carrillo. "Every single game we've had one or two people on, but this was a whole team effort and it was good to see the girls taking good hacks and being aggressive at the plate."

Senior Vanessa Gonzalez spearheaded the Viking attack, going 4-for-5 at the plate with two singles, two doubles and two RBIs. In addition, senior shortstop Kinsey Barnett tallied three hits, sophomore Katie Ellington added two doubles and two RBIs, and freshman Kendal Thrush finished with three hits and two RBIs of her own.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Forest Grove's Kinsey Barnett snares a line drive during the Vikings' game against Liberty Tuesday, May 8, at Liberty High School.The Vikings got two runs in the first inning, three in the third, and four in the pivotal fifth that blew open the game and assured a Forest Grove victory. Meanwhile Liberty, while close early, fell flat over a key middle-inning stretch and failed to answer the bell when the Viks made their push midway through the game.

"Going in I thought they were a very good team that we could compete with, but we just didn't show up today," said Liberty head coach Jordyn Brown. "We just didn't have it."

Forest Grove wasted little time getting on the board, plating two runs on a two-out, two-run single by Thrush in the game's first stanza. Liberty, however, answered in the bottom of the second with two runs of their own when back-to-back doubles by Angelica Colbert and Emily Cundall scored Colbert, then a wild pitch to Abigail McCarthy allowed Cundall to scurry home and tie the game 2-2.

It wouldn't stay tied for long.

Gonzalez doubled to start the Vikings half of the third, then scored on a single by Barnett. An Ellington double put runners on second and third, then a Liberty error followed by a groundball off the bat of Adreanna Stratton put the Viks ahead 5-2.

The Falcons made it 5-3 when freshman Zoe Allen scored on wild pitch in the bottom of the third, and Forest Grove made it 6-3 with a run in the top of the fourth. But it was in the fifth inning that things unraveled for Liberty, and all but sealed the victory for the visiting Vikings.

Thrush led-off the inning with a single to center and after a Emma Calouri walk, scored on a Stratton hit to right. Then following the inning's first out, Calouri scored on a Hailey Bettis single, Stratton scored on a Delaney Aleshire groundout, then Bettis scored the Vikings' tenth run of the game when Gonzalez hit her second double and fourth hit of the contest to make it 10-3.

The Vikings tacked a final run on in the seventh, and Liberty scored two in their half of the inning before an Allen groundball put the game to bed.

Now, with but one game remaining for Forest Grove, Carrillo is hoping to gather even more momentum in their season finale versus South Salem, before a playoff game she's beginning to feel better and better about.

"We saw bits and moments early on, but the younger girls are swinging much more confidently now and are playing as if we belong," said Carrillo. "I feel good about the team going into the postseason and think we have potential to really turn it on."

Liberty, however, after four straight losses and only a game with No. 9-ranked Westview remaining, seems to be trending in the wrong direction and is left hoping to slide into a play-in round game, something Brown isn't entirely comfortable with.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Forest Grove's Ellie Kintz takes a swing during the Vikings' game against Liberty Tuesday, May 8, at Liberty High School."It's been an up and down season," said the Liberty coach. "We've had some really good games and the girls are so excited, then we'll have some really bad ones and they seem to live in that moment instead of letting it go and moving on."

Despite the recent slide, and the inconsistency, Brown also knows her team is a capable one and hopes that the urgency of a playoff game will be what her team needs to light a fire against whomever their opponent may be.

"Right now, going into the postseason I feel a little iffy, but anything can happen and any day the girls can show up and perform," Brown said. "The postseason is a completely different ball game, and when you know the season is on the line, it often brings out the best in the girls."

Forest Grove wraps their regular season with a game against South Salem Friday, May 11, at FGHS.

Liberty travels to Westview May 11, for a 5 P.M game.

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