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Quirke named CCC’s Female Athlete of the Year

ASHLAND — The Lauren Quirke appreciation tour rolled on Thursday as Southern Oregon University’s senior softball star was dubbed the Cascade Conference Embrace Health-Santiam Hospital Women’s Athlete of the Year.

The award, voted on by the conference’s athletic directors, is the CCC’s most prestigious athletic honor. Quirke is one of four Raider women’s athletes to receive it since it was first handed out in 1995.

Over the last 35 days, she has been named the CCC Softball Player of the Year, the CCC Women’s Scholar Athlete of the Year, the NAIA Player of the Year, a first-team NFCA All-American, and a member of the NAIA World Series All-Tournament team.

She also won her second national championship with the Raiders last week, returning to defend the title she helped claim in 2019 as the World Series MVP in her debut season at SOU.

After transferring from College of San Mateo (Calif.), Quirke played two and a half seasons for the Raiders — a period in which they went 130-17. In 146 games played, she broke the CCC record with a .470 career batting average, recorded 81 extra-base hits and 159 RBIs, and went 27-5 as a pitcher with a 2.40 ERA over 227 2/3 innings.

The 2021 campaign was her best yet. As the NAIA hits leader, she batted .488 with 11 home runs, 20 doubles, four triples, 70 RBIs, 64 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases on 18 attempts. Her pitching record of 17-2 gave her the top win percentage (.895) in the CCC, her ERA was No. 3 on the leaderboard, and she struck out 123 batters in 125 1/3 frames.

Quirke joins track and field star Jill Carrier (1995), women’s basketball player Nada Janackovic (1999) and distance runner Jessa Perkinson (2017) as SOU’s only women’s athletes to collect the award.

SOU COACHING STAFF HONORED: After guiding Southern Oregon to a second straight national championship, the Raider softball coaching staff, headed by Jessica Pistole, has been named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s NAIA Staff of the Year.

The staff has four of the same members who also recognized with the award following the Raiders’ 2019 title: Pistole and assistants Cheyenne Bricker, Mike Mayben and Duane Pardue. Pitching coach Greg Winner and volunteer assistant Joe Hagler joined in 2020.

The crew led SOU to a 55-6 mark in 2021, breaking the school wins record for the fourth (full) season in a row.

During the regular season, the Raiders became the first team ever to get through the Cascade Conference schedule with fewer than two losses, going 26-1. And at the NAIA World Series, they became the second team in 20 years to clinch the title by winning five straight elimination games.

Mayben — a former state champion coach at North Medford High — came on in 2019 and took over as interim head coach for 2020 when Pistole accepted the head job at University of San Diego and took Bricker with her. He helped the Raiders to a 23-3 record and a No. 1 NAIA ranking, then remained on staff after encouraging Pistole’s return last summer.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Southern Oregon University third baseman Lauren Quirke, seen here in a file photo, was named the Cascade Conference’s Female Athlete of the Year on Thursday.