Southern Oregon is No. 3 in the NAIA Top 25 softball coaches' poll that was released Tuesday, appearing in the preseason edition for the first time in 12 years with the highest ranking in team history.
A month ago, the Raiders were chosen to edge Corban — last year's national runner-up – for the Cascade Collegiate Conference title. They return 11 players who were part of last year's team that went 46-15 and made the program's first appearance in the NAIA World Series, though they'll be tasked with replacing the production of six starting position players.
The Raiders were No. 6 in the final poll of 2017. They were unranked in the preseason and 20th when the postseason began.
In hopes of topping that performance, they'll lean on senior All-America shortstop Kelsey Randall and All-CCC catcher Harlee Donovan. They also have a proven pitching commodities in Karlee Coughlin and Gabby Sandoval, who combined for 33 wins and 298 innings pitched as freshmen last season.
SOU has previously been listed in four other preseason polls: 2003 (No. 18), '04 (No. 20), '05 (No. 19) and '06 (No. 23).
At No. 5, Corban is the only other CCC team among the Top 25, though Oregon Tech is the first team out.
The Raiders open the season Feb. 2 in Rocklin, Calif., with games against William Jessup and 18th-ranked Simpson.