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Cathey, Stripling deliver in 7th for SOU

Raiders rally for win in opening round of NAIA playoffs

As a program, Southern Oregon is no stranger to the tumultuous nature of the national playoffs. As a team made of several first-year players, the Raiders got a joyous introduction Monday in their first game of the NAIA Softball Championship Opening Round.

The SOU lineup was futile through most of its first three playoff outings, but one loud thump from Ashton Cathey’s bat provided new life before Lindsey Stripling walked off with an RBI single in a 6-5 defeat of Taylor (Ind.) at Lithia & Driveway Fields.

After going two-and-out while scoring just three runs at the Cascade Conference Tournament, the No. 8-ranked Raiders (47-12) — who lead the NAIA in offense — went down 5-2 against the Trojans (26-28) when the visitors nickeled-and-dimed their way to four runs in the top of the seventh inning.

In the bottom half, Riley Donovan and Cayla Williams got on with no outs before Cathey pulled Maddi Evans’ inside delivery over the fence in left-center field for a game-tying three-run home run.

With two outs, Rylan Austin lined a single that right-fielder Caitlyn Grim misplayed off the bounce, enabling Austin to reach third base. Stripling then bounced a single up the middle to complete the comeback.

SOU, the No. 8 team in the NAIA and top seed in the Southern Oregon Bracket, advanced to play 10th-ranked and second-seeded Grand View (Iowa) at 11 a.m. today for a spot in Wednesday’s final round. The No. 4-seeded Trojans will play an elimination game at 1:30 p.m. against No. 3 seed Embry-Riddle (Ariz.), and the winner gets another knockout matchup at 4 p.m. against the SOU-Grand View loser.

“It was great to see the fight, to see us compete until the last pitch,” said coach Jessica Pistole, attempting to bring the Raiders to a fifth consecutive NAIA World Series. “That’s what the postseason is — you have to take a win any way you can get it because the teams and the pitching just get tougher and tougher.”

It certainly won’t get any easier today. Grand View (43-9) is likely call on ace Hannah Pals, who came within one out of completing a no-hitter in her team’s 1-0 win over Embry-Riddle.

Aside from Stripling’s first RBI single in the fourth inning, Evans largely silenced the Raiders until Riley Donovan’s 18th home run gave them a 2-1 edge in the fifth inning.

Things fell apart in the seventh as Taylor hit four straight one-out singles to tie the game. Mayze Menefee came on in relief to walk in the go-ahead run, and then another, before Jersey Tannehill’s soft hit made it 5-2.

Donovan reached with a hit and Williams was plunked to start the bottom of the seventh. Cathey’s ensuing blast was her 13th of the year.

The Raiders previously hadn’t won a game that they’d trailed heading into their last at-bat. This one saved them from having to win four straight elimination games.