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SOU beats Hope International to advance to regional title game

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Following a hiccup in the Cascade Conference Tournament, the Southern Oregon University softball team knew it had to snap back into action come the start of its national title defense.

Through two games of the NAIA softball opening round, the Raiders have looked much like their old selves again. And because of it, they’re one win away from another trip to the national site.

Senior ace Gabby Sandoval tossed a four-hit shutout and senior first baseman Tayler Walker provided the big hit of the day with a three-run double to lead No. 1-ranked Southern Oregon to a 5-0 win over No. 11 Hope International (Calif.) Tuesday in a winner’s bracket game at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

“I thought we came out today with good energy from the start,” SOU head coach Jessica Pistole said. “It was nice to see us just be on the attack consistently. I think we made some good adjustments to the (Hope International) pitching and it was nice to see us string together some hits and push some runs across the plate.”

As was the case in 2019, Southern Oregon (48-5) will face Hope International again with an NAIA World Series on the line. The Raiders need just one more victory in the double-elimination tournament, with the Royals needing to beat SOU twice to oust the reigning national champion. First pitch is at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Medford, with a 1:30 p.m. contest if necessary.

Hope International beat Morningside (Iowa) 3-2 in Tuesday’s late elimination game.

“Just continuing on the climb and just coming out the same way we came out today,” Pistole said in regard to what will be key for her team going forward. “Just doing the little things right — that’s the key. I think this game today, we did a lot of the little things well and obviously took care of the big thing and I think that’s the approach again tomorrow.”

Sandoval had a much-needed bounce-back game to begin the tournament on Monday against Saint Katherine (Calif.), tossing a three-hit shutout.

While the Raiders’ senior right-hander didn’t match her strikeout total from 24 hours before — she struck out one batter Tuesday — she was just as effective on her way to recording her 13th shutout of the 2021 season.

In the first two games of the NAIA opening round, Sandoval has yet to allow a run and has given up seven hits in 14 innings.

“I think for her it’s continuing to get stronger and stronger as well,” Pistole said of Sandoval, who limited Hope International’s top five hitters in the lineup to one hit in 15 plate appearances on Tuesday. “She’s just owning her stuff and her mental game — and it’s a good time to be doing that and I’m happy to see it.”

Sandoval got all the support she needed in the top of the third when Walker hammered a 1-0 offering from Hope International starting pitcher Allie Puente and sent it to the gap in left-center to put the Raiders ahead 3-0.

Allie Stines had doubled with one out in the inning, and with two gone Lauren Quirke and Riley Donovan worked long at-bats for walks to load the bases. Walker cleared them on a 1-0 count.

“It was obviously great timing, but (Walker) was ready and she had made some mental adjustments before that at-bat and was in a good place attacking in that scenario,” Pistole said. “Obviously, Gabby did well and held down the fort and made some adjustments as well with a little bit of a tighter zone.”

The Raiders added two more runs in the sixth on a squeeze bunt from senior catcher Stines and senior second baseman Hannah Shimek’s RBI single to left in back-to-back at-bats.

Stines finished 1-for-3, recording her team-leading 31st double of the season.

SOU outfielders Katrina Winterburn and Olivia Mackey both had two-hit games.

Puente, who threw a one-hitter and struck out 12 in Hope International’s opener Monday, was tagged with the loss after going just four innings and walking four without recording a strikeout.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Tayler Walker slides safe to third base during the 2nd inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Tayler Walker connects for a 3-run RBI double during the 3rd inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Gabby Sandoval delivers a strike during the 4th inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Hannah Shimek connects for a base hit during the 3rd inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Gabby Sandoval delivers a pitch during the 4th inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Hannah Shimek makes a play to second base for an out during the 4th inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Lauren Quirke slides back to first base safely after a hit during the 5th inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Allie Stines drops a suicide rbi bunt during the 6th inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Hannah Shimek steals second base during the 6th inning.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Hannah Shimek connects for a base hit during the 3rd inning.
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouthern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Southern Oregon University vs Hope International in NAIA softball championships opening round at US Cellular Community Park in Medford Tuesday. SOU 5, Hope International 0.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune