I would like to ask a favor of all of you.
Go to the Southern Oregon University athletics website. Click on the softball section. Go to the stats page.
Once you’re done with that, prepare to be thoroughly impressed.
For a good amount of the 2018 season, the Raiders’ offensive numbers have looked more like something from a video game rather than real-life college softball. The past three weeks have been very, very good to the SOU bats — and it’s not like the Raiders were really struggling at the plate before the month of March began, either.
In a Cascade Conference full of really good offenses, SOU is starting to emerge as one of the best.
There’s no way around it with what they’ve been able to do through their first 34 games.
The Raiders’ winning streak was pushed to 12 straight games before they lost their series finale to the University of British Columbia, 3-0, on Sunday. But while losing the series finale put a slight damper on things, SOU’s offense enters its big weekend series against first-place Corban University with a CCC-leading .350 batting average as a team as well as staking claim to being the only squad in the conference to have scored over 200 runs.
And that number stands at 248, an average of over seven runs a game.
Before Sunday’s loss, you’d have to go back to the fifth game of the season to find the last time the Raiders’ offense scored fewer than three runs in a single game. It was also just the second time all season that SOU was shutout.
As much as somebody might think this is just SOU beating up on some of the teams hanging around the bottom of the conference standings, you also have to remember that the Raiders had to replace six of their eight starting position players from last season’s team that made it to the NAIA World Series for the first time in program history.
So how have they done it?
It starts with the two returning starters from last season, senior shortstop Kelsey Randall and senior catcher Harlee Donovan, the Nos. 1 and 3 hitters in the Raiders’ lineup who have been two of SOU’s top hitters ever since the first pitch of 2018.
It’s impossible to look at the CCC leaderboard and not find Donovan’s name right now. She’s second in batting average at .473. She’s first in hits with 43.
Randall, who is second in the conference in hits, leads the nation with 39 stolen bases and 42 runs scored, only contiuining what has been an already-fantastic career in Ashland.
If both of Randall and Donovan aren’t two of the top names in the running for CCC Player of the Year, they should be. (They probably are regardless of what I think.)
But it’s been the rest of the bunch that has certainly played their respective parts in the Raiders’ success at the plate.
Who’s ranked third in the CCC in hits? That would be SOU freshman second baseman Hannah Shimek, who is hitting .342 and is a perfect 22-for-22 on stolen base attempts.
Or, you can think of it this way: There are 13 different SOU players hitting over .300 this season. That means if head coach Jessica Pistole chooses to shuffle the deck a little bit, she’s likely going to replace somebody with a similar — or possibly even better — batting average.
Now the Raiders return home to begin a stretch where they will face all three of their biggest competitors for the CCC title — Corban, Oregon Tech and Eastern Oregon — over the final five weeks of the regular season.
All four of those teams have had winning streak of at least 10 games in the month of March.
Three of those teams — SOU, OIT and Corban — are ranked nationally.
And all four teams are separated by all of two games in the loss column as the race for the CCC regular-season title is truly starting to heat up.
Seeing the SOU offense only continue to do damage is quite the development knowing who is next up on the schedule as the stretch drive gets closer and closer.
The pitching has basically been there from the start. And now you throw a hot-hitting offense into the mix, too?
Well, that makes the Raiders just that much more dangerous of a ball club heading into April — and beyond.
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.