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Second to none

It’s a good thing being on Kelsey Randall’s side.

First, you get to play with a record-setting softball star and standout soccer player if you’re a Southern Oregon University teammate.

Second, the senior might even crochet you something nice.

“All the time, all the time,” Randall says when asked how often she indulges in the hobby. “At Christmas parties every year, my Secret Santa will get a crocheted gift and they’ll know it’s from me. I’m making water bottle holders now, too.”

Considering her athletic excellence, her devotion to crocheting is that much more impressive.

The 21-year-old from Concord, California, is an All-American shortstop and leadoff hitter whose achievements make her the program’s most accomplished position player. She owns SOU career records in hits (295), runs scored (204), stolen bases (138), batting average (.408) and triples (22), and she’s eight shy in doubles with 35.

Only four other Raiders have more than 150 hits, and Katie Moy is second with 171.

Entering a marquee home doubleheader on Friday against seventh-ranked Corban, the 5-foot-4 Randall led the NAIA in runs (42), stolen bases (39) and defensive assists (109) for the 14th-ranked Raiders. The two teams play another doubleheader Saturday, starting at 11 a.m., at University Field.

Last year, the Warriors swept SOU on their way to a CCC regular-season championship before the Raiders defeated them for the tournament championship. SOU set a school-record win total, going 46-15 overall and advancing to its first appearance in the NAIA World Series (Corban was the national runner-up).

The Raiders began 2018 ranked third in the nation.

SOU is 48-18 at home since Jessica Pistole became head coach in 2015.

Randall has played a major role in the program’s fruition, the coach says.

“One of the things that makes her special is her mentality,” Pistole says. “She’s fierce. You don’t want to be on the other side playing against someone like Kelsey.”

It all started humbly enough for Randall: She was a preferred walk-on for both softball and soccer at SOU before quickly showing her value.

“I basically inherited her,” says Pistole, in her fourth year after replacing Kim Fritts. “It was pretty evident from the beginning when I started working with her (that she was special).”

As a true freshman in 2015, Randall was voted a second-team NAIA All-American performer after breaking single-season school records in hits, runs and total bases. She was an honorable mention All-American the following year.

“I remember just coming into that first season, kind of like with any new team, and just putting my head down and going to work,” Randall recalls.

Last year, Randall batted .431 and set Raider single-season records for hits (94), triples (10) and total bases (122). At one point, she held a 23-game hitting streak (another record). When it comes to fielding, Randall is a three-time Cascade Conference Gold Glove award winner.

Randall’s impact was felt immediately in soccer, too, as she started in 10 games and notched three goals and two assists as a freshman.

This fall, the midfielder/forward recorded a team-high six goals and three assists and was named to the all-CCC first team. The Raiders went 10-7 overall and 7-4 in league play. The four-year starter was part of SOU’s first-ever conference title in 2016 and wrapped up her soccer career with 14 goals and six assists.

But just how often did the two worlds of softball and soccer intersect?

“Almost all the time,” she says.

And Randall wouldn’t have it any other way. She regularly bounced from practices, workouts, meetings and other obligations involving both sports. She is used to it, considering she was the Diablo Valley Athletic League MVP in softball and soccer at Concord High.

“It’s chaotic and crazy but I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she says. “I’m nothing special — I’ve still got to show up like everyone else.”

Randall, a business management major, has also earned all-district honors for her academic excellence.

And when Randall gets a free moment, she often crochets. Her love of the activity started early.

“I learned from my mom (Sandy),” she says. “Growing up, that is what we always did. Now I just get urges to start new projects. It’s fun, the whole process, and then you can’t wait until it’s done.”

The process at SOU has been fun too, Randall says, and she’s in no rush to see it end.

“Best experience of my life,” she says.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at djones@rosebudmedia.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt

Southern Oregon softball infielder Kelsey Randall is shown at practice Thursday afternoon. - Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune