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First-inning woes doom Southern Oregon

COLUMBIA, Ky. — Southern Oregon's first NAIA playoff appearance in 10 years was cut short Tuesday evening by Opening Round host Lindsey Wilson, whose five-run ambush during the first inning provided adequate breathing room in a 5-3 elimination-game victory.

SOU ended its season with a record of 37-18. The 21st-ranked Raiders lost their tournament opener Monday against 17th-ranked Marian (Ind.), 6-4, but stayed alive early Tuesday with a 6-0 defeat of Ashford (Iowa) behind Sydney White's two-hit shutout and Nicole Cardoza's two-run homer.

Freshman Victoria Mackey pitched 6 1/3 innings of scoreless relief against LWC, but the damage had already been done by the time she got the ball. Consecutive four-pitch walks to start the game combined with a few wild pitches and a fielder's choice RBI gave the Blue Raiders a 2-0 lead by the time the first out was recorded, and Amber Foukes's lined three-run homer prompted the pitching change.

LWC (46-13), the top seed in the bracket and the No. 6 team in the NAIA rankings, advanced to play Marian in today’s championship round, needing to defeat the Knights twice in the double-elimination tourney to move on to the 10-team NAIA World Series.

SOU began to chip away at the lead in the third inning, when Abigail Lund tattooed her first homer of the year, a solo shot. In the fourth, Kayleen Smith led off by reaching on a fielding error and Rebecca Velasquez followed with a sharply hit single. Smith then scored on a successful double-steal, and Velasquez's pinch-runner (KaeLynn Miller) scored on another fielding error.

That sequence triggered the entry of Blue Raiders ace Lydsey Parden, who shut SOU down while striking out five over the last 3 1/3 innings to up her record to 25-4.

The bottom half of SOU's lineup — Megan Winton (1-for-2),Aaliyah Oliver (1-for-2) and Lund (2-for-3) — capped an impressive tournament showing. In three games Winton went 5-for-8, Oliver went 5-for-9 and Lund went 4-for-8.

The loss marked the end of outstanding careers for seniors Alexa Gonzalez, White and Winton. Gonzalez and White were at SOU all four years, and in their first three the Raiders never finished better than fourth in the Cascade Conference standings. This year they had the CCC's best record (20-8), won the CCC's West Division (15-5), and brought the program back into the NAIA Top 25 poll for the first time since 2006.

Against Ashford, White (15-10) retired the first 16 Saints she faced and completed a two-hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks for her third shutout of the season. Cardoza went 2-for-3 and lifted her third home run of the season over the fence in right-center field with two outs in the fourth inning, a two-run shot that put the Raiders up 3-0.