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Wild finish puts SOU in title round

SALEM — Somehow, some way, the Southern Oregon University softball team will appear in the Cascade Collegiate Conference Tournament championship round for the first time after stunning 15th-ranked and top-seeded Corban University, 6-5, on Sunday afternoon at Warrior Field.

First, with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Taylor Martinez appeared to have won the game with a lined double to right-center that chased home Harlee Donovan from first base. She did not; Donovan was called out, controversially, after the relay throw appeared to be bobbled by Corban catcher Jessie Isham.

Then, with two outs, the game appeared to be headed to the 10th when Nicole Cardoza struck out on Sabrina Boyd's pitch in the dirt. It was not; Cardoza took off for first, Isham overthrew her target, and Martinez was welcomed home from third by a crowd of rowdy teammates.

The second-seeded and 20th-ranked Raiders (39-12) will play at 1:30 p.m. today in the championship round, needing one win to secure their first tourney title. Corban (39-10) will play at 11 a.m. against either Oregon Tech or College of Idaho. The winner advances to play the Raiders but will have to defeat them twice. If it's Corban, the Raiders will automatically get the CCC's second bid to the NAIA Tournament.

The Warriors had won all four regular-season games against SOU. Both teams won Saturday — SOU against Oregon Tech, 7-0, and Corban against College of Idaho, 6-1 — after first-round byes to set up the fifth meeting.

Corban caused more problems right off the bat, going up 3-0 in the top of the first on four free passes and just two hits. Freshman pitcher Gabby Sandoval righted the ship after taking on a one-out, bases-loaded mess — allowing just one of her inherited runners to score — and totaled 8 1/3 innings of relief with two runs on her line.

The Raiders got two runs back in the bottom of the first when Kelsey Randall (walk) and Kayleen Smith (single) reached and Donovan and Tyler Burke knocked them in with groundouts. Trailing 4-2 in the third, Randall and Donovan set the table with singles before Burke's RBI groundout and Nicole Carrdoza's run-scoring single up the middle tied it up.

SOU then took a 5-4 lead in the fourth, as Abigail Lund, Aaliyah Oliver and Randall started the frame with consecutive singles and Smith hit a sacrifice fly, but Corban got the run back with two outs in the sixth when Sam Woodley looped an RBI single up the middle.

A stalemate ensued: Corban finished with 13 left on base, and the Raiders stranded nine.

The Warriors loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth, but Victoria Mackey came on for Sandoval and immediately induced an inning-ending groundout. Mackey eventually got the decision, improving to 6-0.

Donovan, who went 3-for-5 at the plate, set up the theatrics in the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff single. Cardoza, Lund, Martinez and Randall had two hits apiece, but Martinez's was the only hit of the game that went for extra bases.