ASHLAND — Standing 5-foot-6 with a medium build, Southern Oregon freshman Sydney White may not strike fear into the hearts of opposing batters the first time they face her. By their second at-bat, however, they usually know better than to underestimate SOU's top arm.
White showed how deadly she could be from the circle again Friday, dealing a pair of two-hitters against College of Idaho and leading Southern Oregon to a crucial 2-0 victory in the second game of the Cascade Conference doubleheader at University Field.
The Raiders wasted White's solid Game 1 performance, losing 3-1 thanks in part to a pair of errors. But the right-hander out of Clovis, Calif., was even better in Game 2, striking out three without a walk and allowing only one baserunner to reach second base as the Raiders (13-14, 9-5 Cascade) secured a crucial split.
"Just coming out even stronger," White said of her Game 2 mentality, "and making sure that every pitch is good and not taking any pitches off and just holding them. I just did my thing, I guess."
After a disappointing opener that saw the Coyotes (20-18, 6-8) steal a win with one earned run, White retired nine of the last 10 batters she faced in Game 2. C of I catcher Rachael Strong, who had the big hit in Game 1, provided some seventh-inning drama by delivering a two-out single up the middle to bring the tying run to the plate. But White buckled down against Ashley Van Horne, inducing a weak pop up that White fielded herself to secure the win.
Southern Oregon scored the only two runs it would need in the third inning, when Lauren Keel drew a one-out walk, advanced to second on Kara Kelsey's sacrifice bunt — Kelsey actually reached on a throwing error — then scored on Alexa Gonzalez's single up the middle. Kelsey later scored the insurance run on Ashley Lowe's grounder to short, which led to a wild sequence during which Gonzalez and Lowe both were caught in rundowns.
The base-running miscues may have cost the Raiders another run or two, but it turned out SOU didn't need any more offense with White (8-5) on the mound. She breezed through four 1-2-3 innings, and got out of another — the second — equally fast when Alexis Macias lined into an inning-ending double play.
"She's very smart, but you know she can blow away (batters)," SOU head coach Kim Fritts said said of White, who has a team-best 3.07 ERA. "When she really rears back and brings it, she can bring it. But I'd say that Syd really uses her finesse."
Especially her change-up, which can make good batters look foolish.
"We thought that (former SOU pitcher) Jordyn Kurtz probably had one of the best change-ups in the country," Fritts said, "but I remember when Syd came on her recruiting trip that she threw that change-up to Jordyn and Jordyn was like, 'Ooooh, that is dirty.' It's just a hard pitch to read. She throws it so well, she sells it and it just keeps batters off balance."
College of Idaho's Cortni Pena, a freshman out of Meridian, Idaho, was nearly as good as her counterpart, holding SOU to zero earned runs on four hits in six innings. She walked three and struck out one in a losing effort.
Game 1 will go down as a missed opportunity for the Raiders, who left four runners stranded in the first three innings.
The game was scoreless in the top of the fourth when Julia Henrie reached on a throwing error by SOU shortstop Stephanie Vandenbusch. Strong launched White's next offering, a low drop ball, over the fence for a two-run homer.
"The girl (Strong) basically golf-swung at it and got underneath it," White said. "I didn't think she was going to hit it but she did. I'll give her props for that, I guess."
The Raiders cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning on Jessica Flores' RBI single through the left side, but the Coyotes got it back when McKensie Stanton came home on catcher Julia Willison's throwing error in the fifth to make it 3-1.
College of Idaho pitcher Nickayla Skinner held the Raiders to one hit over the last three innings to pick up the win. She finished with six strikeouts and no walks while surrendering one earned run in seven innings.
White struck out four and walked two and was tagged with the loss despite allowing only one earned run on two hits in seven innings.
Vandenbusch, Flores and Sierra Anderson had two hits apiece to lead the Raiders' offense.
The Raiders were in business with two on and two out in both the second and third innings, but Skinner struck out Barrantes to squelch the threat in the second and induced a ground-out to short by Lowe to end the third.
"We just had to do a better job in that first game of adjusting to the pitching," Fritts said. "We left runners on in scoring position multiple times. There's just no reason for not coming through and scoring those runs, so we really shot ourselves in the foot."
Now halfway through the conference season, the Raiders are one game behind third-place Concordia in the conference standings. The top three teams in the final standings advance to the league's postseason tournament.
"The team is doing a fantastic job, we just need to keep fighting," Fritts said. "We need to keep pushing and we can't settle for splits. We need some sweeps."