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Raiders stumble at home

ASHLAND — Nothing has come easy this season for the Southern Oregon University softball team, so why should clinching a playoff spot be any different.

Concordia rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Southern Oregon 4-2 in Game 1, then pulled away late for a 6-3 win in the nightcap to deal Southern Oregon a painful and costly Cascade Conference sweep at University Field on Friday.

McKenzie Marshall held SOU to two runs on nine hits to notch a complete-game victory in Game 1, then held the Raiders to one run on four hits in the last two innings to garner the save in the second game as Concordia (26-14, 18-4) earned its fourth straight sweep to remain a game behind first-place Oregon Tech in the CCC standings.

"Going into every game there's just a lot of confidence, knowing that we're going to get the job done," said Concordia's Lucy Baldovino, a former South Medford High pitcher, who held SOU to two runs through the first five innings of the second game. "We just knew that they were going to be good competition and you can't take anything for granted."

After their seventh-inning rally fell short in Game 1, the Raiders (12-16, 11-9 Cascade) got a two-run home run by sophomore Sulie Augustine to tie Game 2 at 2-all in the fourth. SOU then wasted a golden opportunity to take the lead in the fifth when Megan Scherer led off with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, but was left stranded after a bunt out and a fly out.

Concordia didn't waste its own opportunity the following inning, turning Cassidy Horner's leadoff double, two bunts later, into the go-ahead run.

The Cavs blew the game open by scoring three runs in the seventh, knocking out SOU starting pitcher Sydney White. White surrendered six runs, all earned, on seven hits in six innings.

Southern Oregon made it interesting by loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the inning, but two dribblers later the Cavaliers were celebrating another victory. Concordia has won 18 of its last 20 games.

Southern Oregon was hoping to move closer to clinching a spot in the four-team conference tournament, but instead took a big step away from that goal. SOU has a two-game lead over fifth-place Corban with eight games to play, including two today against Northwest.

"We get into our heads a lot, and that's one of our problems," said Augustine, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. "We were actually really confident and we came back, but we just didn't pull through in the bottom of the seventh. (Today), we're going to come out as a whole team. Everyone's going to be confident in themselves, at the plate and on defense. I'm actually really excited for (today), even though it's senior day."

The Raiders got the start they wanted in the opener, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first on an RBI triple by Augustine and an RBI single by senior catcher Julia Willison.

But Marshall tightened the screws after that, limiting SOU to six hits the rest of the way with five strikeouts.

Cassidy Horner's solo homer to center cut SOU's lead to one in the fourth, and the Cavaliers took the lead the following inning thanks to three extra-base hits, as the visitors began to figure out Raiders' starter Brianne Craig. Leadoff hitter Meghan Luebbert began the rally with a one-out double and scored the tying run on Katie Aden's double. Taylor Copher followed with an RBI double to left, giving the Cavs the lead for good.

Concordia tacked on an insurance run in the seventh on another run-scoring double by Copher, who was one of four Cavaliers with multiple hits in the opener — Luebbert, Aden and Kate Santos were the others.

The Raiders managed to hit three singles without scoring in their half of the seventh. Pinch hitter Kassie Smith singled up the middle to lead off the inning, but moments later the momentum from that hit was snuffed out when Gina Ayala lined into a 5-3 double play.

SOU continued to battle, with Ashley Lowe and Alexa Gonzalez keeping the game going with back-to-back hits, but with the potential tying run at first Augustine grounded out to the pitcher to end the game.

Three innings into the second game the Raiders were down in the dumps again, facing a two-run deficit against a pitcher in Baldovino who entered the game with a 1.95 ERA. Then with one swing of the bat in the fourth, Augustine gave the Raiders new life.

After Gonzalez led off the inning with a walk, Augustine fouled off several Baldovino fastballs before jumping on a 2-2 offering for her first college homer. The ball cleared the wall in left-center by a good 20 feet to tie the game, 2-2.

"I was looking for her mistake and I kept on hitting foul balls over and over," Augustine said. "Then I just saw it and I had great contact. It just went sailing. I felt it in my bat — it hit the sweep spot. And I was like if it wasn't going to get out then I would have been really disappointed."

Concordia had gone ahead in the first when Kate Santos, fighting off an 0-2 pitch, drove in two runs with a bloop single to right. Moments later the Raiders escaped the inning by cutting down Taylor Bussey at the plate when she tried to come home on a double steal.

SOU regained some momentum in the second when center fielder Tyler Burke made a spectacular diving catch to rob Aden of a hit and, with runners at second and third, probably two RBIs.

Southern Oregon University's Alexa Gonzalez takes a throw from teammate Sierra Anderson for a force at second base during the first game of a Cascade Conference doubleheader against Concorida on Friday at University Field in Ashland.