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Raiders drop opener to Marian at nationals

COLUMBIA, Ky. — Southern Oregon managed to smudge Marian ace Breena Smith's nearly pristine ERA on Monday afternoon, just not enough to overcome the rest of the 17th-ranked Knights in a 6-4 softball loss that marked the first game of the Lindsey Wilson NAIA Opening Round bracket.

A second-inning error turned costly for the 21st-ranked Raiders (36-17 overall) when it made way for the first two runs of the game and gave the Knights (45-9) a lead they never relinquished.

SOU hit up Smith (25-4) — who owned a 0.96 ERA and had given up more than two runs just twice in 27 starts — for seven hits and four runs and brought the potential tying run to the plate in the seventh before getting sent to the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

The Raiders will play at 2 p.m. PDT today against sixth-ranked host Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), a 6-1 winner over Ashford (Iowa). If SOU advances, it would play another elimination game at 5 p.m. today.

Marian, which has won 31 of its last 34 overall, got Morgan Burtron on to lead off the bottom of the second when her grounder to shortstop off SOU pitcher Sydney White was bobbled. With Burtron at second and Mackenzie Reeder on first with two out, Vanessa Lay and Hannah Williams came through with back-to-back RBI singles.

The Knights made it 4-0 in the third when Sam Pash poked White's 2-2 offering with two outs into shallow center field, scoring Erica Miller and Carly Greene.

SOU cut into the lead in the top of the fourth. Megan Winton's second hit of the game, a single with one out, started the rally, and Abigail Lund kept it alive with a two-out single. Aaliyah Oliver then drove a two-run triple to the fence in right field, and Kelsey Randall followed that smash with an RBI blooper to left, making it 4-3.

White (14-10) blanked the Knights in the fourth and fifth but walked the bases loaded with no outs in the sixth, prompting Victoria Mackey to relieve her. Mackey only allowed one hit, Miller's RBI single, but a fielder's choice scored a second run and pushed Marian's lead to 6-3.

SOU got one more run off Smith in the seventh — Oliver and Alexa Gonzalez singled, and Kayleen Smith hit a sacrifice fly — but that was all. Smith struck out four and walked two in the complete game, and she avoided early damage when the Raiders left four runners on (including three in scoring position) through the first three innings.

White yielded six hits and six runs (four earned) in five-plus innings with two strikeouts and three walks.

Oliver was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs.