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Sandoval, Donovan lead SOU past Freed-Hardeman

CLERMONT, Fla. — For the second straight winner-or-go-home elimination game, the Raiders were able to deliver the goods.

This time, much to their liking, no last-ditch comeback attempt was needed, either.

Starting pitcher Gabby Sandoval tossed an eight-hit shutout and catcher Harlee Donovan’s latest booming home run added another school record to her name, as the No. 6-seeded Southern Oregon University softball team won Monday afternoon’s elimination game 9-0 over No. 9 seed Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) on Day 3 of the NAIA World Series at Legends Way Ball Fields.

The Raiders, who pushed their school-record win total to 49, will face the loser of Monday’s final game, No. 3 Marian (Ind.), in yet another elimination game at 9 a.m. Pacific Time this morning.

It will be the third straight game in which the Raiders (49-14 overall) have played in the noon local time slot, this one being against a Marian team that beat SOU 10-6 last Friday.

They’ve won the first two of those games. A third will mean their stay in Florida is extended at least one more day.

Sandoval, who didn’t appear in Saturday’s elimination game win over Mobile (Ala.), made the most of her first start since recording all of one out in the tournament opener against Marian.

The Raiders’ sophomore ace, a first-team all-Cascade Conference selection this season, needed only 92 pitches to work her through her first shutout in nearly a month.

Sandoval walked just one and struck out four as she improved her record to 25-6 in her 19th complete game of the season.

Freed-Hardeman (36-16) left nine runners on base in the game.

Donovan’s three-run home run in the top of the fifth, a no-doubter off the bat on a 3-2 offering from Lions starting pitcher Mallory Spurlock, was her 12th of the season, breaking SOU’s single-season record after she had been tied with Tanisha Burch.

Donovan, who already owns SOU’s career home run record with 23, has driven in 75 runs this season, which ranks third in the NAIA.

Unlike its first two games at the NAIA World Series when it fell behind early, Southern Oregon jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on Tayler Walker’s popup to second that got lost in the sun and Karlee Coughlin’s RBI single that went just under the glove of Freed-Hardeman first baseman Hannah Wright.

The Lions committed three of their five errors in the game in the top of the third, as SOU was able to take full advantage and double its lead.

Hannah Shimek and Donovan both reached base on errors and then later scored on Rebecca Velasquez’s sacrifice fly to left and Walker’s squeeze bunt in front of home plate.

SOU, on the other hand, didn’t commit an error for the first time in three games at this season’s NAIA World Series.

The Raiders are 23-1 in 2018 in games when they play a clean game in the field and don’t record an error.

The heart of the SOU order — Donovan, Velasquez and Walker — drove in six of the Raiders’ nine runs. Walker and Coughlin both had two hits on the afternoon.

The top three hitters in the Raiders’ lineup — Kelsey Randall, Shimek and Donovan — combined to score seven runs in the win.

Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or dpenza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.