The softball season didn't end the way Oregon Tech's players — including two from the Rogue Valley — wanted it to.

The softball season didn't end the way Oregon Tech's players — including two from the Rogue Valley — wanted it to.

Still, it's hard to find fault with the year Taylor Schmidt from North Medford, Ashleigh Larson from Crater and their teammates had.

The Owls, the 2011 NAIA champions, won their first two games in pool play at nationals last week before falling to 10th-ranked Shorter University of Rome, Ga., 5-1, on Saturday, ending OIT's season.

"We just fell short," said Schmidt, a junior pitcher who set the OIT single-season record with 27 wins this spring. "We had one bad inning that hurt us, and we couldn't come back, so we lost that third game. Obviously, it's not how we wanted things to go."

It was one of the few times things didn't go well for the Owls, who finished the season with a 41-8 record and a second straight Cascade Collegiate Conference title.

Schmidt, who was pitcher of the year in the CCC, and Larson, a senior second baseman who repeated as an all-conference honoree and as the gold glove award winner for her position, helped OIT to two of the best seasons in school history.

En route to the national championship last season, the team was 42-13. With its record this year, OIT was 83-21 the past two seasons. Only two other Owl teams won as many as 41 games.

"Speaking for the both of them," said Oregon Tech coach Greg Stewart, "they've definitely had a huge impact on our program."

Schmidt enjoyed her first full season as the No. 1 starter, posting a 27-5 record with a 2.11 ERA.

She appeared in 40 games, started 20 and earned three saves. In 198 2/3 innings, she allowed 187 hits, struck out 119 and walked 56.

Schmidt has 56 career wins, ranking third in program history, and is on pace to break the school record of 77, set by Leslie Ernstrom.

The previous season, pitching mostly the second game of doubleheaders, she was 17-4 and had a critical victory in pool play at the national tournament.

As a sophomore, she pitched behind Jackie Imhof, who held the previous record of 25 wins in a season.

"I learned a lot the last couple years," said Schmidt. "College ball is so different from high school ball. I learned a lot from our pitcher last year and getting to see some of the best pitchers at nationals."

She developed a new pitch, an off-speed dropball that came in handy as she improved at mixing up her offerings.

"I feel pretty good about the season," said Schmidt. "I was fortunate to have my teammates behind me the whole time. They scored runs and played great defense all year long."

One of the few lapses came against Shorter in the first inning, when it scored all its runs.

Only one of the five runs was earned following two errors and some fortuitous hits: two seeing-eye balls to the hole at shortstop, said Stewart, and a bloop single to right field that was nearly caught.

"They only had one hard-hit ball that whole inning, and it was a ground ball, too," said Stewart.

The Owls lost four seniors off last year's team, but with Schmidt back, the coach liked the team's chances.

"We felt like she was a good No. 1 for us and she didn't disappoint," he said.

That goes for her work at the plate, too. Schmidt, the No. 5 hitter, batted .322 with three home runs and 25 RBIs.

One of her homers came in the first game at nationals and helped the Owls rally for a 5-2 win over Madonna University, from Livonia, Mich.

Larson was no slouch at the plate or in the field.

In her four years, she started 176 of the 183 games in which she played.

"She's definitely held down the fort at second base for us," said Stewart. "She's always been a kid who hits at the top of the lineup for us and does a lot of good things. She gives up her body for the team by making great diving stops and catches."

Larson had a monster season last year, when her 15 home runs and 66 RBIs moved her to second in each category on the all-time single-season lists.

This year, she batted .321 with five home runs and 27 RBIs. She was second on the team in hits (51) and third in at-bats (159) and runs (37).

She leaves the program ranked third all-time in home runs with 31.

Stewart hates to lose players like Larson but is glad to have Schmidt for another season. Larson is one of four graduating seniors.

"It's always tough when you lose seniors," he said. "It's hard to think about trying to replace a great group of kids. But with Taylor anchoring our pitching staff and six returning starters, I feel good about the group we have coming back."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com