Okay, so now that the Southern Oregon softball team has caught its collective breath — hopefully — after three walk-off wins against Corban University last weekend, we can now officially say the final month of the regular season is here.
Sixteen games remaining.
Twelve of those being Cascade Conference games.
Eight of the final 16 games are at home, eight of those on the road.
And with that comes the fact that SOU, ranked No. 14 nationally, is right where it wants to be in the conference standings.
Hello, destiny. It’s the Raiders dropping by to check in.
The home stretch is here, and it starts up in Eugene this afternoon with the first of two doubleheaders against Northwest Christian, the start of the second-to-last road series before the regular season comes to a close at the end of the month.
Thanks to taking three out of four games — including two of the three CCC games — from Corban last week, SOU (28-9 overall, 12-3 CCC) enters the today’s series opener tied for first place in the conference with Oregon Tech.
And guess who’s coming to Ashland next Friday?
Yep, you guessed it. It’s Oregon Tech.
Two weeks after that, it’s the regular-season finale at Eastern Oregon, which is a half-game behind SOU and OIT with an 11-3 record in conference play.
If that doesn’t tell you that the final month of the season has plenty riding on it — as well as a pretty good reason to get out to University Field at some point over the next three weeks — then I don’t know what else to say.
The possibility of winning the CCC regular-season title is obviously very much alive.
And if the Raiders’ current success continues over the course of the next month, a spot in the opening round of the NAIA Championships is a virtual lock.
(Just as a side note to all of this: The NAIA will announce the 10 teams that will host each one of the four-team Opening Round pods even before the regular season comes to a close, so on top of the possibility of hosting the conference tournament, there’s also a chance the Raiders could open their postseason run in Ashland.)
Basically, SOU needs to just keep on doing what it has been doing this season and the rest will just take care of itself.
Although, for heart rates sake, a couple non-walk-off wins would probably be appreciated.
Either way, the Raiders are, with a month left in the regular season, showing the signs of being a championship-caliber kind of team.
If the Corban series taught us anything about this edition of the Raiders, it’s that they’re not only a team that will never go away but also one that is capable of beating the best the Cascade Conference has to offer.
Of course, Oregon Tech and Eastern Oregon will have something to say about that.
With SOU moving up into a tie for first place in the conference standings last weekend, things are even more interesting than they were seven days ago.
All four of the CCC’s top teams have three conference losses, with SOU and OIT both atop the standings thanks to their respective 12-3 records.
The way things have gone through the first month-and-a-half of conference play, the sense is that things will be hotly contested until the final couple weeks of the season. And with some of the other top teams in the conference playing head-to-head over the next month, there could very well be even more movement in relatively quick fashion as a result of it.
But, for SOU, the final push for a CCC title begins this weekend in Eugene.
The Raiders are most certainly playing a high level of ball right now.
It’s the reason why they’re one of the top two teams the conference standings.
And it could very well be why, come a few weeks down the road, that’s where they still are.
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.