Southern Oregon University's reward for surviving its longest road swing of the season is one more weekend of very meaningful softball on its home field.
The Raiders (12-14 overall, 11-7 Cascade Conference) concluded their trip Tuesday with a 4-4 mark that helped them maintain favorable odds of making the four-team conference tournament. They'll return to University Field for the first time in almost four weeks to host Concordia (24-14, 16-4) today (2 p.m., 4 p.m.) and Northwest (1-25, 1-19) on Saturday (11 a.m., 1 p.m.). The latter doubleheader is senior day for four Raiders.
After four home games, the Raiders will finish the regular season next week with six on the road at first-place Oregon Tech, Northwest and Concordia.
With a little help around the conference, SOU can clinch its first postseason berth since 2010 this weekend. Its magic number is down to six to eliminate Northwest Christian and five to eliminate Corban — that's any combination of Raider wins and their losses.
"I have a positive outlook on these last two weeks because I think the kids are going to push hard to keep improving in every aspect we can," Raiders coach Kim Fritts said. "These are teams that you can't take lightly but our girls know the most important thing is to focus on ourselves."
The road swing was a lesson in the inconsistency the Raiders would like to iron out. They scored 39 runs with eight homers in four wins, and four runs with 15 hits in four losses. They also committed just three errors in the wins but 13 in the losses.
"That's been the key to our success — if we're hitting the ball and play defense then we'll win games, because the pitching almost always keeps us in it," Fritts said. "We're still making some mistakes we shouldn't make at this time of year so we just have to keep working on solidifying our defense and putting the ball in play."
Catcher Julia Willison currently leads the conference in batting average (.413) and on-base percentage (.558), and she leads the team in home runs (3), doubles (8), runs scored (18) and RBI (18). Sierra Anderson has also gotten hot with five doubles, two homers and 17 RBI in conference play, while Ashley Lowe is batting .349 with a team-best 22 CCC hits.
On the mound, Sydney White is coming off one of her best outings of the season: six innings, five hits, no earned runs and 10 strikeouts in a loss to Northwest Christian. Brianne Craig is 5-3 with a 3.65 ERA against conference foes and has completed six straight starts.