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Raiders come up big in seventh for victory

CLERMONT, Fla. — The wait lasted 20 outs, but Southern Oregon’s bats came alive with one out to spare in a win-or-go-home matchup against Mobile (Ala.) on Saturday afternoon at the NAIA Softball World Series.

The No. 6-seeded Raiders scraped together three runs in the top of the seventh inning, all with two outs, in their 5-3 elimination of the No. 7-seeded Rams to survive the weekend at Legends Way Ballfields.

They advanced to play Monday at 9 a.m. Pacific against No. 9-seeded Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.). Freed-Hardeman (36-15) lost 7-0 to top-seeded Georgia Gwinnett.

Three batters after freshman Avery Morehead-Hutsell chipped a leadoff single into center field, senior Harlee Donovan kept her career alive by dropping one into right. An errant throw attempting to cut Morehead-Hutsell down at third base allowed her to scramble home on the play, tying the score at 3-3.

The next batter, Rebecca Velasquez, drove a double to the fence that chased home Donovan. Tayler Walker put the finishing touches on the rally with an RBI single up the middle.

The Raiders (48-14 overall), who opened the tourney late Friday by dropping a 10-6 slugfest to Marian (Ind.), had mustered just four hits entering the inning. Hannah Shimek hit a run-scoring single with two outs in the third, and Hannah Wessel cut into Mobile’s 3-1 lead with two outs in the sixth by slicing an RBI hit into right.

“This is a group of fighters; they’re not going down easy,” SOU head coach Jessica Pistole said. “It seems like we haven’t had everything firing at the same time and we definitely haven’t played our best softball out here, but we’re looking forward to that hopefully being Monday.”

Dating back to last season, SOU is 7-1 in postseason elimination games.

Junior pitcher Morgan Jones worked the final four innings in relief of starter Allie Hancock and limited the Rams (46-15) to one run on two hits. Over seven postseason outings, she’s allowed just six runs in 19 frames.

After the Rams went up 3-1 on a Payton Adams double in the fourth, Jones retired their final 10 batters in order, inducing eight groundouts.

“She was fantastic and just did her thing — got ground balls and hit her spots,” Pistole said of Jones. “That’s all we ask her to do and that’s what she’s done all season in tight situations.”

Shimek, a freshman second baseman, went 2-for-4 for the second day in a row — her sixth multi-hit performance in nine games during the postseason, making her 18-for-32 since it started. Her hit streak stands at 12 games.

Donovan, who didn’t see a strike until her third plate appearance after blasting her 11th home run Friday, extended her on-base streak to 43 games.

For the Raiders to win it all, they’re tasked with winning one game Monday, one Tuesday, two Wednesday and two Thursday.

“They’re feeling good and they’re in the long haul,” Pistole added. “I think we need to tweak a few things in terms of our approach, but we bought ourselves some time.”

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