The Southern Oregon and Corban University softball teams entered Friday’s doubleheader at University Field separated by all of one game in the loss column Cascade Conference play, setting the pace in what has turned out to be a jam-packed top half of the conference standings.
As it turned out, that’s where the two teams ended the day, too.
Southern Oregon and Corban, both ranked in the top 15 nationally, each claimed a win in the big late-March doubleheader in Ashland, as the Raiders won 6-5 in nine innings on freshman second baseman Hannah Shimek’s walk-off double before the Warriors responded with a 7-0 victory to make sure they kept sole possession of first place in the CCC.
When asked how she would sum up her team’s two games, SOU head coach Jessica Pistole knew each where to start.
“We strung hits together (in the first game), attacked pitches we should attack, played solid defense and were pretty consistent from the circle,” Pistole said. “The second game, we didn’t string hits together, we didn’t have as good of at-bats and we just kind of let the momentum be on (Corban’s) side.”
Combined with SOU’s split, Oregon Tech sweeping a doubleheader against Northwest Christian and Eastern Oregon also splitting with Carroll College, there is now a three-team logjam in second place behind Corban, with all three teams holding identical 11-3 records.
SOU (27-9 overall, 11-3 conference) and Corban (20-6, 10-2) — which had previously beaten the Raiders in seven straight regular-season games before Friday’s opener — conclude this weekend’s four-game in another doubleheader today, with the 11 a.m. opener only counting in the CCC standings, per usual.
“It’s going to be a good game tomorrow,” Pistole said. “We’ll be ready to go.”
Friday’s doubleheader not only had the CCC’s top two teams going up against one another, but also the top offense in the conference going up its No. 1-ranked pitching staff.
SOU’s top-ranked offense was averaging over seven runs a game entering the day, and jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning against reigning CCC Pitcher of the Year Sabrina Boyd thanks to third baseman Karlee Coughlin’s bases-clearing double to center field and Hannah Wessel’s squeeze bunt that turned into an infield single.
Corban answered Southern Oregon’s four-run inning with one of its own in the fifth to take a 5-4 lead, getting a two-run single from Sam Woodley to tie it at 4-4 and a sac fly to center off the bat of Jessie Isham to put the Warriors in front 5-4.
The Raiders tied the game in the bottom of the sixth on shortstop Kelsey Randall’s two-out RBI single into right field.
Randall was the one who got the game-winning rally started as well, as she punched a double down the left field line. Shimek didn’t wait long to bring SOU’s record-breaking leadoff hitter home, crushing a 2-2 offering from Boyd to dead center.
Randall finished the day with three more hits to move within two of becoming the first-ever SOU player to reach the 300-hit mark in their career.
SOU sophomore right-hander Gabby Sandoval, who initially exited the game in the middle of Corban’s five-run fifth, pitched the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up her CCC-leading 13th win of the season.
“Get her mindset where it needed to be and that was it,” Pistole said when asked about what changed for Sandoval late in the game. “It was nothing physical, it was not Corban at all. It was getting her mind back where it needs to be and she was the right person to slam the door. She did a good job of doing that, and that’s totally what’s in her control.”
The Raiders’ offense wasn’t able to replicate its early-game success in the second game — and it ended up costing them.
The big hit eluded SOU every time it had a runner in scoring position.
And as good teams usually do, Corban made Southern Oregon pay for it.
The Warriors scored all the runs they would need in a three-run top of the third against Raiders starting pitcher Allie Hancock, who went 4 2/3 innings and was tagged with her first loss of the season.
Southern Oregon left nine runners on base in the second game, six of which came after the Raiders fell behind 3-0.
“It wasn’t them, it was us,” Pistole said. “(Corban is) a good team — they had good at-bats and they were taking good cuts. But we’re in control of our offense, and we didn’t keep the same approach as we had in the first game. Honestly, it’s a big difference when you score a couple here and there. You do get that hit, you string them together hits together and it continues to stay a close ballgame. When you don’t get those and they keep getting the here-and-theres, it adds up and that’s the game.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.