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Field set as Raiders prepare to host playoffs

ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University will have some West Coast company next week in the NAIA Softball Championship opening round, the field for which was revealed Tuesday by the national office.

The fourth-ranked Raiders (45-7) — fresh off their third consecutive Cascade Conference Tournament title and seeking a third consecutive NAIA World Series appearance — are the top seed in the four-team, double-elimination Southern Oregon Bracket.

They’ll be joined by the 11th-ranked Hope International (Calif.) Royals (44-12), the Taylor (Ind.) Trojans (35-15) and the Marymount (Calif.) Mariners (34-12).

All games will be held Monday through Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Community Park, with the City of Medford serving as a co-host. Tournament passes are $10; day passes are $6 for general admission, $4 for seniors, and free for SOU students and kids 12-and-under.

Hope International, the No. 2 seed, and Taylor, the No. 3 seed, will play the tournament’s opening game at 11 a.m. Monday. SOU and fourth-seeded Marymount will follow at 1:30 p.m.

The bracket winner will advance to the 10-team World Series, to be held May 24-30 in Springfield, Mo.

The 40-team opening round format debuted in 2013 and the Raiders broke into it for the first time three years later. They haven’t missed it since, taking the Hattiesburg (Miss.) Bracket in 2017 and the Southern Oregon Bracket last year.

No other team in the bracket has ever advanced to the final site. Taylor previously appeared in the opening round in 2014 and ‘17, Hope International made its opening round debut last year, and Marymount is in just its fourth season as an NAIA program.

SOU has already met Hope International, which was second in the Golden State Athletic Conference but got back-to-back wins against regular-season champion Vanguard (Calif.) to win the GSAC Tournament.

The Raiders swept the Royals in a neutral-site doubleheader on Feb. 17 by scores of 5-3 and 4-3, taking leads in the sixth innings of both games.

Taylor finished third in the Crossroads League standings at 25-11. The Trojans advanced to the Crossroads Tournament title game against undefeated and second-ranked Marian (Ind.), but the game was canceled due to inclement weather.

Marymount went 17-3 in the California Pacific Conference and captured the Cal Pac Tournament title by defeating La Sierra (Calif.) in the championship game for its 10th consecutive win. Simpson (Calif.) was also sent to the Southern Oregon Bracket as a No. 4 seed last year after winning the Cal Pac last year.

Andy Atkinson / Mail tribune The SOU softball team celebrates after winning the Cascade Conference Championship Sunday in Ashland.