ASHLAND — The Southern Oregon University softball team has conquered the Cascade Conference, the Raiders’ perfect run through the CCC Tournament complete after a 7-5 defeat of Eastern Oregon on Sunday afternoon at University Field.
In defending their title, they became the first team to win both the CCC regular-season and tournament championships in six years as the lineup continued to overpower. In 18 total innings at-bat during the tourney, the Raiders totaled 34 hits and 25 runs — including five in the first inning to take control early against the No. 4-seeded Mountaineers.
SOU (44-12 overall), ranked No. 8 in the NAIA, likely sealed its spot as a No. 1 seed in the 40-team NAIA Opening Round, which will take place May 14-16 at 10 sites around the country. The Raiders have already been selected to host a four-team, double-elimination pod at Medford’s U.S. Cellular Community Park. The field will be revealed in its entirety Tuesday.
The win was the Raiders’ sixth straight in the CCC Tournament dating back to last year, and their 11th in 12 games overall. Hannah Shimek went 2-for-4 with a run scored and three RBIs, popping the first of four run-scoring singles in the first inning. She also hit a two-run liner to center field to make it 7-2 in the third, and SOU used three pitchers to hang on.
“I’m really proud of our team for coming out motivated to take the tournament even after we won the conference and knew we were in to nationals,” SOU head coach Jessica Pistole said. “They did a great job staying focused and taking care of the task at hand. I think we’re still getting better, and this is another goal we had that we can check off.”
EOU (26-22) put the potential tying runs on base in the seventh after Shevan DeFreitas cut into the lead with a three-run homer in the fifth. They’d already clinched the CCC’s second automatic bid to the national tournament earlier in the day, when they won their third consecutive elimination game, 2-1 over No. 2-seeded Corban.
Gabby Sandoval (22-6) pitched 5 2/3 innings to get the decision for SOU. She was relieved at the start of the fifth by Morgan Jones but re-entered with one out in the six, ultimately allowing five hits, three walks and two runs. With runners on first and second and two out in the seventh, she induced a harmless Madison Barr popup to end it.
After stranding one runner in scoring position in the top of the first, Sandoval was provided a sizable cushion in the bottom half. Five of the first six Raiders to bat reached base; Shimek, Rebecca Velasquez, Paige Leeper and Olivia Mackey each drove in a run.
Kelsey Randall scored two of them a day after setting a new conference record for runs in a career. The four-time Gold Glove winner also dazzled at shortstop: In the second, she made a diving stab at a liner and doubled a runner off first from her knees, and with two on and two out in the third, she fielded a ball deep in the hole and gunned down a runner at first to end the threat.
Harlee Donovan walked three times, extending her on-base streak to 37 consecutive games. Hannah Wessel and Tayler Walker both went 1-for-3 with a run scored.
The Raiders raised their overall batting average from .338 to .341, which, if it holds, would be a new team record.