It all comes down to this, the final weekend of the regular season, for the Southern Oregon University softball team. Despite dropping seven of its last eight games in a week's time, the program's first postseason appearance since 2010 is well within reach.
Doubleheaders Friday at Northwest University (2-28 overall, 2-22 Cascade Conference) and Saturday at 25th-ranked Concordia (27-15, 19-5) are all that remain for the Raiders (13-19, 12-12), who are still clinging to the fourth and final spot in the CCC tournament. Their magic number is three to eliminate Northwest Christian (12-14 CCC), which finishes up with two Saturday at Corban and owns the tiebreaker over SOU.
Friday's games are scheduled for noon and 2 p.m., and Saturday's for 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The Raiders have been one spot in the standings removed from a tournament berth in each of the last three seasons. If that is to change, they first need to take advantage of their matchup with Northwest.
The Eagles were in Ashland last Saturday and snapped a 20-game losing streak by stealing Game 1, 6-3, before the Raiders won 9-1 in the nightcap. A second-year program, Northwest is at the bottom of the conference in batting average (.214) and earned-run average (6.63) by a wide margin. Its best chance is to ride the right arm of Kelli Peckham, who held the Raiders to two earned runs and benefited from three unearned Eagles runs in her win.
"Honestly, it hasn't been about who we're playing all year, because when we struggle we're just hurting ourselves," Raiders coach Kim Fritts said. "We've proven we can beat anyone when we play a clean game."
The challenge stiffens on Saturday against the Cavaliers, who are one game out of first place after winning nine of their last 10. They feature the most dominant pitching duo in the CCC, one that led them to 4-2 and 6-3 wins last Friday at SOU. McKenzie Marshall is 11-1 with a 1.65 ERA against loop foes and Lucy Baldovino is 8-3 with a 2.04 ERA.
They'll contend with an SOU lineup that's gotten a couple more key cogs hot recently.
First baseman Megan Scherer, before going hitless in Game 2 Monday at first-place Oregon Tech, had gone 10-for-14 in her previous four games, raising her conference-only batting average over 100 points to .357. Left fielder Sulie Augustine, the team's No. 3 hitter, is 9-for-18 with four extra-base hits during her active six-game hitting streak.
More Raider notes: Brianne Craig is 6-7, but her 2.88 ERA in 751/3 innings ranks seventh in the conference... Julia Willison enters the weekend with the CCC's ninth-best batting average (.392) and top on-base percentage (.538) by 61 points"¦ Ashley Lowe is batting .337 within the circuit and has hit safely in 17 of 24 games"¦ The Raiders have scored more than three runs in a loss just once. They're 12-0 when leading after six innings but 0-13 when trailing after six.