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RAIDERS REPEAT: SOU wins second straight softball crown

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Southern Oregon University celebrates its second straight softball national championship following a 7-5 victory over Oregon Tech Wednesday. Photo from Darrell Roaden

COLUMBUS, Ga. — For as long as the flame of the rivalry has burned, just defeating Oregon Tech has always been enough for Southern Oregon University. How it gets done is mere trivia.

Details of the latest installment, however, will be etched into Raider lore forever.

The national softball championship belongs to SOU again after the Raiders knocked off the Owls twice Wednesday in the NAIA World Series title round — first by a score of 3-2 to force the winner-take-all finale, then with a 7-5 extra-inning triumph in which Riley Donovan launched a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the ninth inning after watching her team squander a four-run lead with two outs in the seventh.

The top-ranked Raiders (55-6), now back-to-back champs, finished their run with five straight elimination-game victories over three days and a Cascade Conference revenge tour. They set up the matchup with OIT on Tuesday by knocking out College of Idaho, which had previously eliminated the Raiders from the CCC Tournament and put their season on the brink by topping them in Saturday's winners' bracket semifinal.

The Owls (48-10), seeded No. 2 at the tourney, had won 14 straight coming into the day — including an upset of SOU at the CCC Tournament — and needed just one win against the Raiders to claim their second national title.

Senior ace Gabby Sandoval navigated SOU through Game 1. Her 122nd career victory, which put her at No. 2 on the NAIA's all-time list, was a six-hit complete game that she sealed by getting Aubrie Businger to pop out with the bases loaded in the seventh.

Tied 1-1 in the fifth, the Raiders strung together three infield hits, the third off of Lauren Quirke's bat to drive in Avery Morehead-Hutsell. Donovan made it 3-1 by roping a single into right field.

OIT's Sarah Abramson took the Game 1 loss but matched up with Sandoval again in Game 2, where the Raiders promptly got to her for two first-inning runs. After Hannah Shimek's triple and Donovan's walk, Tayler Walker and Rylan Austin came through with back-to-back RBI singles.

Shimek's second triple drove in two more in the sixth, and a four-base error on Olivia Mackey's misplayed liner to shortstop made it 5-1 in the top of the seventh and triggered the first signs of a celebration.

It was premature; Sandoval got the Raiders 20 outs but the 21st eluded her. With two on and two out in a four-run game, consecutive walks followed by consecutive Krista Ward and Kennedy Jantzi RBI singles cut the lead to one and prompted Sandoval's exit. Her replacement, Quirke, fired a full-count fastball low to Logan Nunes, and her walk forced in the tying run.

Quirke got the next four outs on eight pitches to set up Donovan's dramatics. On a 1-0 pitch, the junior muscled Abramson's fastball at the letters just over the fence in center field for her eighth home run of the season and second of the World Series.

Over seven games at the tournament, Donovan went 11-for-17 with eight RBIs, also adding a pair of doubles.

An Olivia Mackey triple, preceded by Tayler Walker's single, yielded an insurance run for the Raiders, making it 7-5.

With one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Quirke avoided further dramatics by striking out Kathryn Bradford on three pitches and getting Nunes to line out to Mackey in right.

The game was the last for 11 Raider seniors, seven of whom were also starters for the team that defeated Oklahoma City for the 2019 championship. Sandoval, in her fifth season with the Raiders, was around for the program's first-ever World Series appearance in 2017. They've now been to four straight.

The matchup marked the first in the final between two opponents from the same conference since 2014, and the first final between two CCC opponents in any sport since 1995 (women's basketball).

No winner-take-all game had gone to extra innings since 2002.

Southern Oregon’s Lauren Quirke connects for a double driving in Avery Morehead-Hutsell for the 1 of 2 runs in the 5th inning of the first game in the NAIA World Series Championship against Oregon Tech, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Hannah Shimek safe at home for the 2nd run in the 5th inning of first game in the NAIA World Series Championship against Oregon Tech, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon Raiders’ Gaby Sandoval pitching against the Oregon Tech in the NAIA Championship World Series Softball tournament, June 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Hannah Shimek makes the catch in the 7th inining for the final out of the first game in the NAIA World Series Championship against Oregon Tech, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Tayler Walker base hit in the first inning brings in Hannah Shimek for the first run of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Hannah Shimek scores the first run of the game off a base hit from Tayler Walker in the first inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Hannah Shimek scores the first run of the game off a base hit from Tayler Walker in the first inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Riley Donovan scores the second run of the game off a base hit from Rylan Austin in the first inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Riley Donovan scores the second run of the game off a base hit from Rylan Austin in the first inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Katrina Winterburn at-bat in the first inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Katrina Winterburn at-bat in the first inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon Raiders’ Gaby Sandoval pitching against Oregon Tech’s McKenna Armantrout in the second inning of the NAIA Championship World Series Softball tournament, June 2, 2021
Southern Oregon Raiders’ Gaby Sandoval pitching against Oregon Tech’s McKenna Armantrout in the second inning of the NAIA Championship World Series Softball tournament, June 2, 2021
Southern Oregon Raiders players in the dugout chanting, “Raiders” to the fans in the stands during the against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Hannah Shimek triple in the 6th inning brings home two scoring runs from Avery Morehead-Hutsell and Allie Stines in the 6th inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Avery Morehead-Hutsell scores on a triple base hit from Hannah Shimek in the sixth inning of the game Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Olivia Mackey tags home plate and leaps for joy over her home run in the 7th inning of the NAIA World Series Championship against Oregon Tech, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Lauren Quirke comes into the game as a pitcher in relief of Gabby Sandoval, securing the win against Oregon and the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Tayler Walker makes the play at first base against Oregon Tech’s Jensen Becker in the 9th inning of the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon’s Allie Stines makes a leaping catch of a foul ball for the 3rd out of the 8th inning in the game against Oregon Tech in the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon Raiders celebrate their win over Oregon Tech in the 9th inning of the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon Raiders celebrate their win over Oregon Tech in the 9th inning of the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021
Southern Oregon Raiders celebrate their win over Oregon Tech in the 9th inning of the NAIA World Series Championship, Jun 2, 2021