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Raiders to play for championship

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Southern Oregon is one win away from a national title after Gabby Sandoval quieted Oklahoma City’s top run-producing lineup in the country and Tayler Walker provided pop at the plate in a 4-2 win Monday night at the Killian Sports Complex.

Fourth-ranked SOU (51-7) is the last unbeaten team in the NAIA World Series and will play the final Wednesday at 7 a.m. PDT against an opponent to be determined this afternoon.

Whoever comes out of the elimination bracket to meet the Raiders would have to defeat them two games in a row for the championship.

“The belief and the fight that we have — that mentality that this is our season and this is our tournament — that’s carried us through those really tough moments and allowed us to get back up and fight harder,” said SOU coach Jessica Pistole. “Even when (OCU) tied it, it was only tied for their half of the inning and we came right back.”

Sandoval needed 142 pitches to complete her NAIA-leading 35th victory. The Raiders staked her to a 2-0 lead in the first when Lauren Quirke hit a run-scoring triple and Walker followed with an RBI double.

But the Stars (59-7) got two back in the fourth on Morgan McCallum’s solo home run and a consequential throwing error.

SOU pushed across the go-ahead single run in the fifth on an Avery Morehead-Hutsell groundout, after Paige Leeper and Olivia Mackey set the table with singles.

In the fifth, Walker padded the lead with a booming shot over the left-field fence, her fifth home run of the season.

“Tayler’s home run was icing on the cake,” said Pistole. “She’s just not making moments bigger than they are. She’s trusting all the cuts she takes, trusting her hands, and it’s showing when we need her to come through.”

Sandoval’s pitch count was her highest since March; it was at 59 after the first two scoreless innings.

She wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the second, a second-and-third situation in the fourth and a first-and-third spot with no outs in the sixth.

“Gabby’s such a fighter,” said Pistole. “She doesn’t let things like home runs get to her. It’s fun to see her really compete and stay so composed.

“It was a grind. From start to finish, it felt like a fight. But Oklahoma City is really good and we expect that to be the case with every team here.”

Wednesday’s championship was originally scheduled for a 3 p.m. PDT start but was adjusted due to inclement weather in the forecast.

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