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Raiders top defending national champions

CLERMONT, Fla. — Southern Oregon was one win away from a spot in the NAIA World Series final after eliminating the back-to-back defending champion, No. 2 Oklahoma City, by a score of 3-2 in a game that started late Wednesday and wrapped up past midnight at Legends Way Ballfields.

The No. 6 Raiders (51-14) won their fourth consecutive elimination game after dropping their tournament opener, and their third in a row by way of a Gabby Sandoval complete game.

SOU was set to play another elimination game at 1 a.m. today — thirty minutes after the completion of its game against the Stars (53-9) — against No. 10-seeded Columbia (Mo.). The winner would have to defeat No. 4 Science & Arts (Okla.) twice today, starting at noon (9 a.m. Pacific), to claim the title.

Sandoval (27-6), a sophomore from Anaheim, Calif., broke SOU’s single-season record for pitcher victories with a five-hitter in which she neither walked nor struck out a batter, but induced 15 groundouts.

She and the Raiders got the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Tayler Walker drew a full-count, bases-loaded walk with two outs that forced home Kelsey Randall. Randall started the inning with a walk before Hannah Shimek singled and Harlee Donovan was issued a free pass.

Randall tallied two of SOU’s six hits and drew a pair of walks. She scored another run in the third inning on a passed ball paired with a wild throw to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead. SOU right-fielder Olivia Mackey lined a two-out single in the second to drive in the Raiders’ first run and even the score after Oklahoma City scored the first run of the game on catcher Donovan’s throwing error in the top of the first.

Oklahoma City’s Baileigh Loux hit an RBI single with two outs in the fourth to tie the game. Sandoval cruised the rest of the way, however, retiring the last 10 batters in order to keep the Raiders’ championship hopes alive.

Dating back to last season, the Raiders are 10-1 in elimination games.

The latest was originally slated to start at 10 a.m., but rainstorms pushed the start back three times throughout the day.