Gord Collings has coached through 23 seasons of high-calibre softball, including the past four as the boss of the UBC Thunderbirds.
Yet as he rode the bus north on I-5 Sunday following his team’s neutral-site 3-0, 11-0 sweep of Montana’s Carroll College Fighting Saints just outside of Portland, the sun-baked skipper admitted he had never guided a team whose second half so greatly contrasted that of its first.
“I’ve gone through stages where you win five in a row and then you lose five in a row,” began Collings, whose ‘Birds grabbed the sixth-and-final playoff spot at the NAIA’s Cascade Conference championships with the sweep. “But never have I been a part of anything so dramatically polar.”
When the ‘Birds (15-23, 13-13 CCC) were swept in an ego-deflating three-game series March 25 in Ashland (Ore.) in which they were outscored 21-0 by host Western Oregon, the blue-and-gold boasted a 1-16 overall record.
Finishing the regular season on a 14-7 roll is an impressive enough after the ghastly start, but consider that UBC heads into its Cascade Collegiate Conference playoff opener against Oregon Tech riding a 9-1 finish. And that over its final six games, all wins, have outscored the opposition 46-4.
UBC, hot on the heels of a four-game weekend sweep over Northwest Christian in Eugene, Ore., made a short trip north to make-up a pair of games against Carroll University on Sunday at Sunset High in Beaverton. The Fighting Saints just happened to be playing in the same vicinity and were coming 2-1 series win on Saturday over No. 15-ranked Corban University in Salem.
“The big part for us is the confidence has gone up,” said Collings. “Our defence has played well, and so when our pitchers have gotten into trouble, they have been there.”
There were no such issues on Sunday.
Anticipating a season-ending battle with Carroll for the last playoff spot, Collings rested Lindsey Ogilvie in Eugene.
Then on Sunday, he unleashed the senior, letting the 5-foot-11, ex-Surrey Storm standout pitch all 12 combined innings in the sweep.
“Lindsey Ogilvie was lights out,” said Collings of the right-hander who between the two wins walked just one while striking out seven in improving to 6-7. “That was a solid 12 innings today.”
UBC opened the twin bill by winning 3-0 as Montana Turnovitski went 3-for-3, driving in the game’s opening run in the top of the fourth.
In the second game, UBC needed just five innings to win 11-0, scoring five in the final frame, all with two outs, including a two-run home run by catcher Lexie Brenneis. Over the five games she played this weekend, Brenneis went 11-for-19 with two home runs and 15 RBI.
The Cascade Collegiate Conference championships run May 5-7 in Salem, Ore.. home of Corban University.
Regular-season champion Corban, the No. 1 seed, has already clinched a berth to the NAIA World Series, the highest-placing team at the CCC championships aside from Corban will grab the other guaranteed berth to nationals.
UBC, the No. 6 seed in the six-team event, faces No. 3 Oregon Tech in the second game of the event, 11:30 a.m. this Friday.
The day opens at 9 a.m. with No.4 Eastern Oregon facing No. 5 College of Idaho. If UBC wins its game, it would face No. 2 Southern Oregon at 4:30 p.m. the same day.
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