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SOU softball opens CCC Tournament with 5-2 win over UBC

ASHLAND — As it opened the Cascade Conference Tournament on Friday, maybe the biggest goal the Southern Oregon softball team had was to start the game as fast it possibly could.

Goal put forth, goal achieved.

By the time the middle innings rolled around, the Raiders had built themselves a five-run lead, as No. 8-ranked Southern Oregon never trailed in a 5-2 win over the University of British Columbia at University Field.

“We wanted to jump out early and not wait,” said SOU head coach Jessica Pistole. “We wanted to make adjustments early and not after they beat us at the plate. It was nice to get the lead in the first inning and tack on. I feel like we left runners on base that we could have brought across the plate, but otherwise they did a good job of getting runners on, moving them and scoring them.”

With the win, which improved SOU’s overall record to 42-12, the Raiders’ road to repeat as conference tournament champs is much more manageable.

Southern Oregon, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, will face No. 2-seeded Corban — which beat Oregon Tech 6-3 in the final game of the day — in a winner’s bracket game at 2 p.m. this afternoon.

If the Raiders win that game, then they will have to win just once on Sunday to make it back-to-back titles.

If SOU loses, it will play at 11 a.m. Sunday morning just to advance to the championship matchup and then have to win both of those game with the CCC Tournament being double-elimination format.

“That’s the goal. That would be beautiful,” SOU senior catcher Harlee Donovan said in regard to potentially needing just one win on Sunday to capture the tournament. “My knees love those days. That’s our plan.”

As she has done for pretty much all of her SOU career, senior shortstop and leadoff hitter Kelsey Randall got the Raiders going right out of the gate, eventually coming around to score on Donovan’s RBI groundout to short in the bottom of the first.

The Raiders added onto their lead an inning later to give themselves a 3-0 lead, this time with the bottom of the lineup doing the damage.

No. 9 hitter Avery Morehead-Hutsel drove in freshman center fielder Hannah Wessel — who doubled to leadoff the inning — with a bloop double into shallow left field and then scored on a UBC throwing error on a Hannah Shimek chopper in front of the plate.

Of the 10 hits the Raiders recorded on Friday — the fourth straight game where they’ve reached a double-digit hit total — five of them were doubles, with DH Rebecca Velasquez hitting two of those in her first two at-bats.

“(Getting an early lead) was very important,” said Shimek, who went 3-for-3 at the plate in the game. “We’re very good at building runs like that, backing each other up and sacrificing what we had to in order to do our job.”

That proved to be all the run support that SOU sophomore right-hander Gabby Sandoval needed.

Outside of a two-run double off the bat of UBC center fielder Claire Eccles in the top of the fifth, Sandoval was able to work out of trouble when it was necessary.

Sandoval, who had a 0.75 ERA in her last eight complete-game efforts, went all seven innings again on Friday. She scattered nine hits in her 17th complete game of the 2018 season while striking out five and walking two.

Sandoval, SOU’s first 20-game winner in nearly a decade, improved her record to 21-6 on the season.

“She stayed composed, and when (the home plate umpire) got inconsistent, that’s the hardest part when you’re getting the call and then all of the sudden not getting the call,” Pistole said. “Gabby did a good job just staying composed, Harlee made some adjustments to get a little more of those calls.

“Nobody’s perfect and giving up some hits is fine with me as long they’re timely and we can answer with our offense.”

The Raiders added single runs in the third and fourth innings to push their lead to 5-0.

Freshman right fielder Olivia Mackey — who also had one of the game’s best defensive plays when she threw out a runner at third on a first-inning single — brought Velasquez in on an RBI groundout to second base.

An inning later, Donovan drove in Randall for the second time in the game with an RBI single to left.

Donovan’s single not only pushed her conference-leading RBI total to 61, but also extended her school record streak of reaching base to 35 straight games.

“We took control super early and we were loud super early — and that’s what we told ourselves we were going to do,” Donovan said. “We got the job done.”

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