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Raiders get No. 1 seed at NAIA World Series

ASHLAND — The wildest NAIA softball championships opening round on record produced arguably the most unlikely World Series field in 40 years of the event, the bracket for which was released late Wednesday night by the national office.

One part of the bracket appears as expected: Southern Oregon (49-5) has the No. 1 overall seed in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament, which runs May 27 through June 2 in Columbus, Georgia.

The rest was thrown into chaos as eight of the 10 top seeds at opening round sites were eliminated — a stark contrast from the 2019 first round, when all 10 advanced.

SOU and Oregon Tech were the lone survivors, meaning the Owls have the No. 2 overall seed at the World Series. And College of Idaho was the only No. 2 seed to move on, giving the Cascade Conference three representatives at the final site for the first time ever.

The Raiders, making their fourth straight appearance, will debut at the tournament at 4 p.m. Pacific time next Friday against the winner of Thursday’s game between No. 8 seed Milligan (Tenn.) and No. 9 seed Bethany (Kan.). Those two are among five teams at the World Series that were unranked in the most recent Top 25 poll, which was released 15 days ago.

After SOU, No. 3 seed Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) was highest ranked team in that poll among the qualifiers at No. 12.

SOU and OIT are the only teams back from the 2019 field. Ottawa (Kan.) is the only other team that has been in the World Series more recently than 2014.

If the Raiders win their opener, they’ll play at 1 p.m. on May 29 against the winner of a game between No. 4 seed College of Idaho and No. 5 Ottawa.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Gabby Sandoval delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game against Hope International.