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SOU clinches another league title

ASHLAND - With one week to spare, the fourth-ranked Southern Oregon University softball team's Cascade Conference regular-season title defense is emphatically complete.

In extending the most overpowering run the CCC has ever seen, the Raiders (40-5 overall, 23-1 CCC) clobbered Providence (Mont.) twice more Saturday at University Field, 13-0 and 14-1, both in five innings. They captured the championship for the second year in a row, the third time in four seasons and the sixth time in team history, earning hosting rights for the six-team CCC Championships to be held May 3-5.

Gabby Sandoval ran her perfect conference record to 20-0 and dropped her CCC-only ERA to 0.88 with a two-hit shutout in Game 1 - 24 hours after one-hitting the Argos (7-24, 7-17) - and Morgan Jones celebrated her senior day with her first complete game as a Raider in the non-conference series finale. The pitching tandem was overwhelmed by offense support, particularly at the top of the lineup, where Allie Stines went 6-for-7 with four extra-base hits, six RBI and six runs scored and Hannah Shimek went 4-for-5 with a triple, a double, four runs and two RBI on the day.

The Raiders have won 12 straight and 23 of 24 overall, and their CCC-record winning streak in conference affairs has reached 22. They hit the 40 victory-mark six games faster than any other club in SOU history by winning via the eight-run rule for the 13th and 14th times this season. Dating back to last season, they've won with the mercy rule in effect 28 times since the last time they lost in that fashion.

They fired on all cylinders in this series - slamming 18 extra-base hits and committing just one error compared to the Argos' 14 while their pitchers conceded five combined earned runs.

In Saturday's opener, they eased the title-chase tension immediately with eight runs in the first inning. Stines started it with a triple to right-center and scored on the play thanks to a throwing error, and later in the frame she slammed a three-run double to left. Shimek followed with an RBI triple down the line, and Tayler Walker led off the second inning with her third home run.

Stines went 3-for-3 with a walk, three runs and five RBI in the game, later driving another double. She went on to extend her on-base streak to 21 games and brought her doubles total to 23, just one shy of the CCC single-season record.

Taelor Mayben provided SOU's sixth extra-base hit of the game, a double, and Paige Leeper went 1-for-1 with a walk and two runs scored. Sandoval, meanwhile, needed just 74 pitches to get through her start with eight strikeouts and no walks, going to 26-2 overall.

The parade around the bases continued in Game 2 as the Raiders posted two runs in the first, five in the second and seven in the third, getting run-scoring hits from Shimek in each frame. Shimek finished 3-for-3 with four RBI and two runs and Stines added three more hits, three more runs and another RBI.

First baseman Rebecca Velasquez also had a successful senior day outing, going 2-for-3 with a triple, a run and an RBI. Monica Deadmond added two hits, two runs and an RBI in a spot-start at catcher, while Avery Morehead-Hutsell and Lauren Quirke pitched in a hit, two runs and an RBI apiece.

Jones went to 4-2, scattering three hits with a strikeout and no walks. She retired the first nine Argos she faced before they started the fourth inning with back-to-back infield hits.

SOU will play its final series next Friday and Saturday at College of Idaho. The Yotes dropped three of four this weekend at Oregon Tech but left the second-place Owls three games behind SOU in the standings with their lone win.

Closeup of a Softball Glove and ball