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The Vikings lean on 'small ball' and sound pitching to defeat the visiting Falcons.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove freshman Kailea Takahashi runs to first base after a bunt attempt during the Vikings' game with Liberty Friday, April 15, at Forest Grove High School.After seeing their seven-game win streak snapped with a 10-4 loss to Sunset April 4, the Forest Grove softball team wasted little time picking up the pieces, capping three straight wins with a 7-1 victory over Liberty in their Pacific Conference opener Friday, April 15, at Forest Grove High School.

The Vikings broke a 1-1 tie with four runs in the third inning, added two more in the fourth, then left the rest to the pitching duo of Rylie Arruda and Ella Taplin, who repeatedly worked their way out of jams en route to a combined four-hitter.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Liberty's Abby Blair winds to throw a pitch during the Falcons' game against Forest Grove Friday, April 15, at Forest Grove High School.The game was the first for the Vikes since April 7, after games with both Oregon City and Southridge were rained out on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.

"After we shook off a little bit of rust from what seemed like forever since we had played a game, the team played great," Forest Grove head coach Jeremy Ingram said. "We can still clean up a few things, but overall, I was pleased with the performance from the team."

Hailey Yon led Forest Grove at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Arruda managed two hits of her own while striking out nine in four innings of work in the circle.

Some of the Vikings' best work came late in the game, when they managed to thwart two Liberty scoring threats with solid pitching and sound defense.

In the fifth inning, Liberty had runners on second and third with no one out after consecutive singles by Natalie Rabe and Abby Blair, but Taplin got Jillian Clement to pop out, struck out Addison Johnson, then successfully ended the Falcons rally when Tayen Ledbetter flew out to left field.

"The fifth inning was big for us," Ingram said. PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Hailey Yon takes a swing during the Vikings' game with Liberty Friday, April 15, at Forest Grove High School.
"We talk about it all the time to limit damage, not let a previous mistake carry on to the next play, and always focus on the next pitch. The team did a great job of limiting the damage."

Liberty's Blair did a nice job in the circle over the first two innings as well, so much so that Ingram made the calculated decision to try some "small ball" in the third, using bunts and opportunistic baserunning to apply pressure to the Liberty defense. The ploy worked, ultimately leading to four Vikings runs.

"After being rained out and forced to practice inside the last few days, before the game we spent a lot of time working on the small ball game," Ingram said. "We know that there are some pitchers in our league that are tough to hit and we will need to be able to execute small ball at times to put pressure on defenses."

Now, with the league slate underway, the Forest Grove coach said it's imperative they maintain focus and continue to improve if they want continued success.

"We have gained some confidence heading into league. However, we are always just focused on one day at a time, one pitch at a time, and trying to learn and improve every day," Ingram said. "This team's motto is 'play for each other,' and the girls are buying in to our motto, which is showing up daily in practice and games."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Ella Taplin hurls a pitch during the Vikings' game with Liberty Friday, April 15, at Forest Grove High School.
In addition to Yon and Arruda, Katelyn Peterson and Kaimalino Ingram had two hits, while Violet Royalty and Jacquelin Lang had a hit apiece.

Ella Taplin pitched final three innings, allowing no runs on two hits while striking out three.

The Falcons' Blair finished 3-for-4 at the plate, while striking out eight and allowing two earned runs in six innings of work in the circle.

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