ASHLAND — Looking to prevent getting swept in a doubleheader for the first time all season, the Southern Oregon softball team was waiting — and hoping — its bats would come alive as the innings went by.
That “Finally!” kind of feeling came in the bottom of the sixth of game two.
Hannah Shimek’s two-run single into shallow left field that just barely got over the outstretched glove hand of Oregon Tech shortstop Shayna Ige proved to be the game-winning hit and Harlee Donovan’s booming two-run home run was the exclamation point in a five-run outburst, as the No. 9-ranked Raiders were able to capture a 5-2 comeback win after falling to the No. 22 Owls 4-3 in the first game.
“I was watching (the ball) the whole time,” Shimek said with a grin. “I wasn’t even watching where I was running. I’m happy it got down.”
A bloop and a blast later, the SOU offense was suddenly resembling itself again.
The Raiders’ win in the nightcap not only means they have a chance to take the series in the opener of today’s doubleheader that starts at 11 a.m. — the first three contents in each four-game set count toward a team’s Cascade Conference record — but also allowed them to maintain sole possession of first in the standings after second-place Corban split against College of Idaho.
“OIT’s a great team and they’re always a great team. We know that and it’s always a good matchup when we play them,” SOU head coach Jessica Pistole said. “So, to split one today, after dropping the first game, is the best case scenario for us. We’re going to be ready to go in the morning, for sure.”
Defensive miscues were a theme for both teams on the day, as SOU (33-10 overall, 16-4 CCC) and OIT (26-10, 14-6) combined to commit 10 errors in the doubleheader.
The Raiders fell behind 2-0 in the second game as the Owls got RBI singles from Sahalie Doe and Tara Moates in the third and fifth innings, respectively, off Raiders starting pitcher Allie Hancock.
Southern Oregon didn’t lack for chances, either, but stranded eight runners on base — over half of those in scoring position — through the first five innings.
But an OIT error — its fifth and final one of game two — saw a throw go wide at third on an SOU bunt attempt and score pinch-hitter Avery Morehead-Hutsell, cutting the Owls’ lead in half to 2-1.
Up stepped Shimek, who was still a hobbling slightly after sliding hard into OIT catcher Rebecca Armantrout just in front of home plate three innings earlier. With an opposite-field single into shallow left, Shimek gave the Raiders something they hadn’t previously had until that point — a lead.
Donovan, the CCC’s RBI leader, greeted relief pitcher Kelly Scott by hitting her team-leading seventh home run of the season that made it 5-2, a no-doubter that had the SOU bench celebrating the second it left the bat.
Since the beginning of March, the Owls — who entered Friday’s doubleheader with a CCC-best 2.15 ERA — had only previously allowed five runs or more in a game just twice.
“Sometimes it happens that way, but we’re going to be getting more confident and more consistent with that,” Shimek said. “If we ever need to put up a bunch of runs at the end of the game, we know we can do it.”
Outside of allowing the two run-scoring singles, Hancock was solid all game long. The Raiders’ freshman right-hander scattered seven hits and struck out four in six innings of work to improve her record to 7-1.
Gabby Sandoval — who was the hard-luck loser in Friday’s opener after allowing just two earned runs in her 11th complete game effort of the season — pitched a scoreless top of the seventh to pick up her third save.
“Our pitchers hit their spots and did pretty well today, I thought,” Pistole said. “Our defense needs to be better. In both games, it shouldn’t have been as close as it was. If we can just execute defensively ... that’s something we work on all the time and I’m expecting us to be better in that department.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.