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SOU ROUNDUP: Raiders to host NAIA Opening Round again

For the second year in a row, the NAIA Softball Championship Opening Round is coming to Southern Oregon.

SOU was one of 10 hosts selected, the national office announced Wednesday, and will again partner with the City of Medford to hold the Southern Oregon Bracket at U.S. Cellular Community Park when the Opening Round takes place May 13-15. A four-team, double-elimination tournament will play out at each site.

The host selection process takes into account geography, facilities, student-athlete experience and the national coaches’ Top 25 poll. Starting last season, the NAIA would not consider sites without field lights, ruling out SOU’s own University Field.

The fourth-ranked Raiders (40-5 overall) — already regular-season champions of the Cascade Conference — are now guaranteed a spot in the 40-team national field for the fourth consecutive season. All qualifiers and bracket assignments will be released May 7.

SOU won its Opening Round bracket last year at U.S. Cellular Community Park, when it hosted for the first time, to advance to the 10-team NAIA World Series. This year’s Opening Round winners will advance to play the World Series at Missouri State University’s Killian Sports Complex in Springfield, Mo., May 24-30.

For the third time in four seasons, the Raiders will also be home for the six-team Cascade Conference Championships presented by U.S. Bank, May 3-5 in Ashland. Winners of 22 consecutive CCC games, they’ll play their final regular-season series Friday and Saturday at College of Idaho.

College Track & Field

SOU’S DANIEL TAKES NATIONAL TRACK ATHLETE OF THE WEEK HONOR: Arianna Daniel, Southern Oregon University’s superstar sprinter, added another bullet point Wednesday to her loaded résumé: NAIA Track Athlete of the Week.

The junior from Elk Grove, Calif. — already a five-time overall NAIA All-American and eight-time Cascade Conference champion — earned the award for the first time after sweeping three events Saturday at Lane Community College’s Titan Twilight. She won the 200 meters in 25.31 seconds, the 400 in 57.28 and helped SOU’s 4x100 cut its NAIA ‘A’ standard time to 47.73.

In her last three meets, Daniel has won all six individual races in which she’s competed, spanning four disciplines.

Daniel is provisional qualifier for the NAIA Outdoor Championships in the 200 (24.91) and an automatic qualifier in the 400 (56.65), topping the Cascade Conference performance lists in both events. She also ranks No. 2 on the CCC’s 100 list (12.21).

She’ll race at home again this season in the CCC Championships, May 10-11 at Raider Stadium. At last year’s conference meet, she was the winner of the 100, 200 and 400, in addition to pushing both of SOU’s relay teams to victory.

Andy Atkinson / Ashland TidingsSOU teammates react after making it home on a double in the 1st game Friday.