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Grand View ends SOU’s season

Raiders unable to capture second victory needed to reach NAIA World Series

The delivery of the message and appreciation for jobs well done was the same for Southern Oregon University head coach Jessica Pistole, only the timing was a bit off for what the Raiders have become accustomed to in recent softball seasons.

Southern Oregon was able to get the first of two wins needed Wednesday to advance to a fifth straight NAIA World Series but not a second at Lithia & Driveway Fields — ending SOU’s season on the same field in which so many celebrations had happened over the last five years.

An 8-0 win over Grand View (Iowa) forced a winner-take-all situation that the 10th-ranked Vikings were able to claim 5-1 over the No. 8 Raiders for a spot at the national site in Columbus, Georgia.

“We had a heck of a season and we need to hold our heads high,” said Pistole of the message given to her team after Wednesday’s finale. “We had 17 new players and there was just so much fight. They did a great job.

“I’m just proud of them. It’s been a great season.”

It’s the first time since 2016 that the NAIA World Series field won’t include SOU, which was looking to win a third straight national title after winning it all in 2021 and 2019. There was no national tournament in 2020 due to the season being canceled in mid-March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Raiders finished the season with a 49-14 record, one win shy of their fifth consecutive 50-win campaign.

All of this comes in a season in which the Raiders graduated nearly their entire starting lineup — including three All-Americans — from their national championship-winning team a year ago.

The Raiders will graduate just one senior in Erika Marquez this time around, with each one of SOU’s key cogs set to return in 2023.

Cascade Conference champion and No. 1-ranked Oregon Tech also faced a winner-take-all game Wednesday, with the Owls beating William Jessup (Calif.) to advance to the final site.

“At the end of the day, I think we’re all really, really proud of what we did this season,” said SOU catcher Riley Donovan.

“I don’t think anybody looking at us expected it because we lost so many people from last year,” she continued. “We brought in people who are just as capable if not more capable of doing amazing things. I think we learned a lot this year and we’re looking stronger. I’m super excited about that.”

Donovan proved to be the source of the Raiders’ only run in Game 2, crushing a booming home run to deep center on the first pitch she saw from Grand View starting pitcher Courtney Kopischke to put SOU in front 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning.

It was Donovan’s 20th home run of the season and third in five games in the NAIA Opening Round.

But three different Grand View pitchers, including Vikings ace Hannah Pals, were able to keep the Raiders offense quiet the rest of the way.

Pals, who no-hit SOU on Tuesday to put the Vikings into the championship game, threw the final four innings to get the win. SOU’s offense entered the NAIA Opening Round as the highest-scoring unit in the country but couldn’t replicate the same amount of success they had against Pals earlier in the day, with the junior right-hander allowing just four hits and no runs to keep the Raiders at bay.

“We are so offensively sound, and I think there were a lot of shots that we had in the second game that were just right at people,” said Donovan. “We were making contact, but (Grand View) had rally killers (on defense) and at the end they won because of it.”

The Vikings got four of their five runs in the series decider in the top of the third, taking advantage of a pair of Raiders errors that prolonged the inning.

Grand View (45-10), which advanced to its first NAIA World Series since 2006, tied the game on an RBI single by second baseman Abby Sutten. Following that at-bat. Pistole went to the bullpen and replaced Phelicity Fa’aita with Cayla Williams, who was the tough-luck loser in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Grand View.

Williams was unable to record an out against the three batters she faced, allowing an RBI double to third baseman Alyx Witt that put the Vikings in front 2-1 before committing an error on a squeeze bunt attempt and a run-scoring single by left fielder Rachel Anderson that made it 4-1.

Fa’aita came back into the game to record the final two outs of the inning and stop the bleeding.

“Cayla shut them down when we played them the first time, so I felt fine about that move and it was obviously the right time to put (Fa’aita) back in,” said Pistole. “It’s the championship game and those are the risks that you take.”

“I think all tournament long, our defense did a good job but could have been sharper,” she added. “Really that’s kind of the momentum shift that was there. We had some outs that we let go and that momentum, those rallies create energy and can produce runs.”

In total, Fa’aita threw seven innings in Wednesday’s deciding game, with two of the four runs charged to her tally being earned. She allowed eight hits and struck out three while both walks she allowed were to the first two batters of the game.

She threw a one-hit shutout in the five-inning opening win to get SOU to the decisive second game.

Three of the four runs SOU allowed in the top of the third were unearned.

“She was dialed in,” Donovan said of Fa’aita, who like her All-American batterymate transferred to SOU from College of San Mateo. “We just needed to make a pitching change to see if we could slow (Grand View) down. They had a little bit of a ball rolling, we just wanted to try and stop that. It just didn’t end up working out.”

The Raiders had runners on against Pals in the fifth and seventh innings, but were unable to get any closer. The Vikings added an insurance run against Fa’aita in the top of the sixth on Sutten’s two-out RBI single.

Fa’aita, second baseman Deja Acosta and North Medford grad Rylan Austin all finished 2-for-3 at the plate in Game 2.

Fa’aita also hit a home run in Wednesday’s opener, while center fielder Sarah Kerling drove in three and Williams went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

“It’s just the slightest mistakes that can lose a game,” said Donovan. “It was unfortunate and it is what it is. You can’t really do anything about it. I had full faith, and I think we all had full faith, that we would come back and win it. Those rally killers, they got to us.”

Reach reporter Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSOU's Riley Donovan plated her team’s lone run in Wednesday’s second game with a first-inning home run.