Raiders go for No. 2
The do-or-die portion of Southern Oregon University&
s 2006 softball schedule technically doesn&
t begin until the double-elimination Cascade Conference Tournament the first weekend of May, but the Raiders cap the regular-season slate Saturday afternoon with a pair of critical tilts against archrival Oregon Tech.
The Noon doubleheader is essentially meaningless except for pride for the first-place Owls (32-3, 16-1 CC), who evicted the Raiders from the league penthouse after a three-year stay with a near-perfect season record. The Raiders (24-15, 11-7), however, are battling Concordia for second place and an important first-round bye at the league fracas, which determines the final two spots at the four-team NAIA Region I Tournament.
Regardless of the Raider outcomes against the Techsters, the Cavaliers (21-19, 9-6) control their own destiny heading into a four-game road trip at Eastern Oregon and Albertson.
s games also mark the final University Field intercollegiate appearance for six Raider seniors &
including some of the young program&
s greatest players &
along with third-year coach and 103-game winner Larry Binney.
Senior all-star center fielder Leann Foster has already surpassed the school&
s all-time RBI record (currently 99), while senior slugger Tanisha Burch is a dinger from breaking her own season mark (9) and passing Angie Chaplin on SOU&
s career list (18).
The Southern Oregon University women&
s tennis team will either make program history or simply wrap up another fine season this weekend at the NAIA Region I championships in Clarkston, Wash.
Having assembled the second-best record in SOU lore through 12 duals (11-1), the Raiders need three wins at the two-day, four-team gathering to qualify for a first-ever NAIA Tournament berth.
The first dual may decide the tourney champion and the region&
s automatic berth to nationals, as Southern faces 18th-ranked and event host Lewis-Clark State College — p.m. today on the Clarkston High School courts. SOU&
s visit to the furthest inland seaport in the Western U.S. culminates Saturday with tilts against University of Alberta (9 a.m.) and Albertson College (4 p.m.).
Completely healthy and raring to go after what will have been a 13-day hiatus since a 9-0 romp over the University of Oregon club team, Raiders enter the weekend nursing a six-dual win streak.
Should Southern topple LCSC for the first time in eight tries since 1998, odds are juniors Annie Chaney, Iuliia Efunia and freshman Katie Ross will have experienced success at the top of the singles lineup.
Chaney is 10-0 as the Raider singles ace this season and is 23-1 over the past two years. The North Medford product&
s lone setback over the past two seasons &
s Kyla Westerberg in the final dual of last season &
kept her from staking claim to the individual regional singles crown.
Ross is 11-3 primarily in the No. 2 singles spot and 12-1 mostly with Efunia in doubles.
Track and Field
In the fourth and final home event of the 2006 season, the Raiders host Oregon Tech in a scored dual-meet starting with throwing events at 11 a.m. Foot races begin at Noon.
The Raider-Owl gathering is the final tuneup for both schools prior to next week&
s Cascade Conference Championships.
Having already qualified five men in eight events for the NAIA Championships, SOU athletes hope good weather, fresh legs and high hopes lead to season-best performances.
While his marks top the conference performance list and are the best by a Raider in years, junior All-American Trevor Palmer seeks to stem a recent slide in the national rankings. After holding the NAIA top spot in the 800 for two weeks based on a 1:51.41 at the Sac State relays, the Crater High grad is now No. 5 in the country, while his 3:50.20 in his 1,500 specialty is seventh overall &
three spots lower than where he placed in the 2005 championship race.
Palmer, however, added another line to his impressive middle-distance resume by running a ninth-place 4:10 in the prestigious McChesney Mile Run at last Saturday&
s University of Oregon Invitational. The clip was five minutes faster than the top Duck racer in a field dotted with Olympic hopefuls.
Sophomore Kevin Jeffers is fourth on the NAIA charts in the steeplechase (9:19), and senior Ross Dexter (1,500) and freshman Cameron Kreuz (800 and 1,500) are only a couple of ticks worth of improvement away from automatic qualifier status.
The Southern Oregon University football team caps its spring practice schedule on May 6 with the school&
s annual Red Black intrasquad game.
The sixth-annual contest will be held at Raider Stadium starting at 2 p.m.
The hour-and-a-half controlled scrimmage will be immediately followed by a BBQ for players, coaches, family and program boosters.