CLERMONT, Fla. — The Raiders dug themselves a hole that even their quick-strike offense couldn’t totally dig out of.
And because of it, they will now have to immediately face an elimination game if they want their stay in Florida to last past this weekend.
The Southern Oregon University softball team allowed four first-inning runs and never led in its 10-6 loss to No. 3-seeded Marian (Ind.) in the opening round of the NAIA World Series at Legends Way Ball Fields on Friday night.
The sixth-seeded Raiders (47-14 overall), who suffered just their second loss in eight postseason games, will now look to keep its second straight visit to the NAIA World Series going in the elimination bracket. SOU will have a quick turnaround after Friday’s game finished up just before midnight on the East Coast, as it faces No. 7 seed Mobile (Ala.) — which lost 4-1 to No. 10 Columbia (Mo.) in Friday’s tournament opener — at 9 a.m. Pacific Time this morning.
If the Raiders win, they’ll get the chance to play next week.
If the Raiders lose, their second straight trip to Florida will be over in all of two games.
Like SOU did in each one of its NAIA Opening Round games at U.S. Cellular Community Park in Medford last week, Marian (51-5) jumped out to an early lead, as Raiders starting pitcher Gabby Sandoval was only able to record one out in the top of the first before being replaced by Morgan Jones.
The Knight’s Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, Mackenzie Reeder and Issy Hoyt, hit a run-scoring double and single, respectively, to give their team a 2-0 lead. Angelica McKibben pushed the Knights’ lead to 3-0 and Marian capped its big first inning when Carly Greene scored from third on a double steal.
SOU senior catcher Harlee Donovan, the Cascade Conference’s Player of the Year, drove in the Raiders’ first four runs in the game, three of which coming on a booming home run to left field off Marian ace right-hander Breena Smith in the bottom of the first to pull the Raiders within one at 4-3.
It was the first time that Smith, who entered the game with a minuscule 0.91 ERA in 2018, had allowed more than two runs in a game this season.
Donovan struck an inning later, tying the game with an RBI single to right field to drive in Hannah Shimek, who doubled to right with two outs.
Marian, however, took the lead right back a half-inning later on Saddie Baugh’s two-run double.
The Raiders had chances throughout the middle innings, but couldn’t capitalize until they scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth on Rebecca Velasquez’s RBI double and Tayler Walker’s run-scoring single.
Southern Oregon finished with 13 hits in the game — 12 of those against Smith, the first time she has allowed a double-digit hit total all season — but left 11 runners on base.
It was the third time in the last five games that SOU left at least 10 runners on base.
After Friday’s result, the Raiders are 1-2 in those games.
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.