Auburn Riverside fastpitch drops regular season opener

Ravens homer twice in loss— Lexi Virks 4-4 , Danica Butler 2.0 IP 0R

The Auburn Riverside Ravens fastpitch team lost their season opener to the Inglemoor Vikings by a score of 8-4 on March 15.

“I thought for the most part the girls played pretty well… We hit some balls hard and they just made some plays,” said Auburn Riverside Head Coach Bryce Stand.

Inglemoor was as tough an opponent the Ravens could have had for their opening game. The Vikings were playing their fourth game of the season, compared to the Ravens’ first. On top of that, Inglemoor is coming off their first state tournament since 2017 last season.

“It’s very important to play these levels of teams. You look around and you see the best teams are playing the best teams. When good teams play good teams someone’s going to lose, but that’s how you get better,” Strand said.

The Ravens are coming off of their second consecutive NPSL league championship season and back to back state appearances, including a fifth place finish last year. “There are teams that want to be in our spot. We just got to stay in what we do, and I think our girls understand that,” Strand said.

“We just have to go out there with confidence, if something bad happens we know we can make up for it,” Lexi Vircks said.

Over the third to the fifth inning, the Vikings scored all eight of their runs. Two in the third, four in the fourth, and two in the fifth, giving Inglemoor an 8-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth.

“I take a next pitch mentality. No matter what happened in the previous pitch I can’t change that. So I just focus on the next pitch,” Vircks said.

The Ravens didn’t score runs because of a lack of hard hits and base runners. Over the first five innings only a single Raven struck out, they also totaled 11 base runners compared to Inglemoor 14, but still trailed by eight runs.

“You just gotta be consistent and positive. Credit to our girls because they didn’t keep their heads down, they knew if you kept having good approaches good things will happen,” Strand said.

Riverside had been held off the scoreboard all game, but that changed in the bottom of the sixth. After Kaylee Walker got on base to start the inning, Seneca Aarstad hit her first home run of the season cutting the score to 8-2.

Raven pitcher Lexi Vircks pitches in the Riverside season opener. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Raven pitcher Lexi Vircks pitches in the Riverside season opener. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Sophomore Danica Butler came in relief for Vircks in the top of the sixth inning. She faced the middle of the Viking order who was 3 for 6 up to that point in the game. Butler sat down the Vikings in order over her two innings of work, without allowing a base runner.

“For a sophomore to come in that spot and face the heart of their order…It was fantastic, it’s huge for her confidence,” Strand said.

In the seventh, Vircks notched her fourth hit of the game in her first time being in the leadoff spot. “She could have been the hottest hitter in the state tournament last year… She set the table and did her job tonight,” Strand said.

“I was pretty comfortable, I went in confident,” Vircks said.

With two outs in the seventh, Kaylee Walker after scoring on Aarstads homer, hit her own two-run home run. Aarstad reached on a walk following the homer but the Ravens couldn’t quite complete the comeback losing 8-4.

The Ravens have their second invitational on March 24-25 and their first league game is March 28 against Mount Rainier on the road.