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SOU softball stays hot, sweeps doubleheader against Northwest University

ASHLAND — As cold as the temperature was at University Field on Friday, the Raiders were able were able to build on their current hot streak.

Even if they took two different kinds of paths to victory.

After recording a 10-2 five-inning blowout win over Northwest University in the opening game of its Cascade Conference doubleheader, the No. 14-ranked Southern Oregon softball team used a five-run fifth-inning rally to claim a 5-1 comeback win and complete the sweep that pushed its winning streak to seven games.

“I think any time you get a lot of hits and runs in the first game, then you come back and start the next game at 0-0, it’s tough to keep that going. It’s also tough to let them hang around and then stay focused and not press and get it done,” SOU head coach Jessica Pistole said. “I don’t feel like they pressed and they stayed focused. They let it happen and stayed calm. I think they did a good job in the fifth inning of getting that done.”

The Raiders improved their overall record to 21-7 and 6-2 in CCC play as the midpoint of the regular season arrived with the seasonably brisk mid-March weather.

SOU and Northwest conclude their four-game set with another doubleheader today, with an 11 a.m. first pitch scheduled for the first game. As is customary in the CCC this season, the series finale will be played as a non-conference game.

“We’re young and just finding our rhythm,” Pistole said. “How we thrive and what we need to do as a team isn’t different than any other year. They’re working and working to strengthen those things as well as adjust where we need to adjust. The goal is to get better every day, and I think they’re getting better every day.”

The Raiders got solid pitching in both ends of the doubleheader from starters Gabby Sandoval and Allie Hancock.

However, the one lead the Eagles (7-16 overall, 1-7 CCC) all day came all of a half-inning into the second game, as Northwest took a 1-0 lead on a Hancock wild pitch.

The Raiders, who entered the week on the back of scoring a whopping 58 runs in their four-game sweep of Providence, were making solid contact up and down the lineup, but only had two hits to show for it through the four innings against Northwest starting pitcher Hannah Yelas.

That all changed in the bottom of the fifth.

All-American senior shortstop Kelsey Randall tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI single up the middle to bring in Olivia Mackey.

Moments later, Hannah Wessel, who was moved up to the No. 2 spot in the order in the second game, laid down a perfect squeeze bunt down the third base line on a 2-1 offering to score Hannah Shimek and put SOU ahead 2-1.

“I was pretty excited when I got the (squeeze) sign,” Wessel said with a grin. “I knew I was going to get it down and that we were going to score that run because (Yelas) was throwing pretty good pitches in that certain count. I was ready to get it down and get the run in for the team.”

Pistole described the decision to go with a squeeze with one out in the fifth as it being “the right person, the right time and the right runner as well.”

“I think it’s always a possibility,” Pistole added. “You look on who’s on base and who’s up to bat. For us, that’s something we’re always working at. It’s always an option when you have a runner at third and there’s lots of ways to score from third base.”

Senior catcher Harlee Donovan stretched the SOU lead to 3-1 on a groundout to second base. Rebecca Velasquez and Katrina Winterburn capped the big five-run inning with an RBI single and run-scoring double, respectively.

“We’ve been working a lot on not falling behind the count and really getting after it,” Wessel said, “so (the big fifth inning) meant a lot to the team.”

Hancock, a freshman right-hander, scattered eight hits in her complete-game effort, finishing with a season-high seven strikeouts.

Sandoval, who also went the distance in the opener, struck out four and walked two while allowing five hits as she improved her record to 10-3 on the season.

The first game was much different for the Raiders, who are now 4-2 at home this season.

SOU scored three runs in the first and third innings to build a quick 6-1 lead and give Sandoval all the run support she needed in the game.

The Nos. 6, 7 and 8 hitters in the SOU order — Karlee Coughlin (1-for-1, 3 RBI), Wessel (1-for-3, 2 RBI) and Mackey (3-for-3, 2 RBI) — drove in seven of the Raiders’ 10 runs in Friday’s opener.

“It’s huge. If I got that every day it would be awesome,” Pistole quipped. “That’s so big because you know when you have consistency through the lineup, there’s not a hole. It’s nice when everybody’s just doing what they do.”

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.