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SOU faces long road after World Series setback

SOU softball

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Five straight elimination games stand between Southern Oregon and a repeat softball national championship after College of Idaho upset the Raiders 6-4 on Saturday in the winner’s bracket semifinals of the NAIA World Series.

Center fielder Hattie Hruza went 3-for-3 with two home runs, a double, three RBIs and three runs scored, pushing 15th-ranked and No. 4-seeded C of I (44-17) to its second consecutive defeat of No. 1 SOU (50-6).

With the Yotes trailing 4-3 in the top of the fifth, Hruza walked to load the bases. The next batter, pinch-hitter Hannah Mikel, attempted to check her swing on the first offering she saw from Gabby Sandoval but made contact and dumped a two-run single just over the glove of SOU second baseman Hannah Shimek.

The Yotes then added one more on a first-and-third steal play that scored Hruza.

C of I advanced to play Monday against the winner of a game between Oregon Tech and Madonna (Mich.). Whoever comes out of that with a win will have a spot in Wednesday’s final and two shots to win it in the double-elimination tournament.

The Raiders’ journey through the elimination bracket begins at 10 a.m. Pacific Time on Monday against No. 7 seed Mount Mercy (Iowa) (38-16).

If they advance, they’ll need two more wins on Tuesday to stay alive. And if they do that, they’ll have to take down the winner’s bracket champion twice on Wednesday.

Their loss to C of I marked the end of a taxing day that started at 10 a.m. local time with the resumption of their 6-1 win over Bethany (Kan.) that was postponed in the fourth inning Friday night due to rain.

The Yotes — who lost all four regular-season games to the Raiders in five innings each, but eliminated them from the Cascade Conference Tournament three weeks ago — greeted SOU with Hruza’s two-run home run in the top of the second before gifting all four Raider runs on three critical errors.

A walk to Tayler Walker and two throwing errors led to SOU’s first run in the second. Pitcher Hannah McNerney’s throwing error extended the third inning, and the Raiders capitalized as Riley Donovan ripped a two-run single to left and Walker followed with another lined RBI hit to put them up 4-2.

But the Yotes lineup, and a technicality, got to Raider pitchers Sandoval and Lauren Quirke. Quirke, the starter, exited after allowing Hruza’s first home run and issuing back-to-back walks to start the third.

Hruza hit her second, of the solo variety, against Sandoval to cut SOU’s lead to 4-3 in the fourth.

As in the win over Bethany when she issued a season-high seven walks, Sandoval was interrupted nearly a dozen times by illegal pitch calls — the likes of which had not been an issue throughout senior’s career — prompted by her footwork.

Her control suffered as she had three more walks in five innings of relief, two of which preceded Mikel’s go-ahead blooper.

C of I’s Katelyn Wilfert also handled the bulk of the game in relief to improve to 19-5. She conceded just two hits in 4 1/3 innings and escaped trouble in the seventh when the potential tying runs reached base with one out.

The game was the first ever between two CCC teams at the World Series.