COLUMBUS, Ga. — Southern Oregon University softball never quit. Facing elimination five times, the Raiders won five straight games to claim their second NAIA National Championship in school history, doing it in back-to-back seasons.
The game started much like the first game as the Raiders, the away team this time around, came out swinging. Hannah Shimek took the first pitch she saw from Sarah Abramson to the right-field fence, logging a stand-up triple with one out. Tayler Walker took a two-out pitch into right field, scoring Shimek and advanced Riley Donovan, who walked, to second. The next batter was Medford-native Rylan Austin who hit a 1-2 pitch right back up the middle. Donovan scored from second to give SOU a 2-0 lead in the first half-inning.
But Oregon Tech also came out swinging in the first. McKenna Armantrout singled to lead off the frame. She was out on the force at second on a Kaila Mick grounder, but an errant throw put her on second with one out. With two outs, Maggie Buckholz singled into left-center to score Mick and put the Owls on the board.
Both pitchers settled in after that, working quickly through the middle innings. It wasn’t until the sixth inning the championship game saw more runners cross home plate.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, Shimek returned to the batter’s box with two runners aboard. She hit a low line drive into left-center, Jensen Becker went to make her second diving play of the inning but the ball gets past her. Two Raiders came around to score as the second baseman coasted into third with her second triple of the night, this time bringing in two runs.
The Owls couldn’t get anything going in the sixth and were tasked with holding SOU in the top of the seventh to keep it a 4-1 ballgame.
Abramson got the Raiders down to their final out as the senior right fielder Olivia Mackey dug into the left-hander’s batter’s box. She hit a rocket at Mick at short and the ball went off her shin into center field. The deflection got past the outfield to go all the way to the wall. Mackey raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run to give Southern Oregon a 5-1 lead with only three outs between them and back-to-back national titles.
Oregon Tech wasn’t going down without a fight. A pair of singles and walk loaded the bases for the Owls with two outs. Buckholz, who hit a walk-off home run earlier in the tournament, representing the tying run. She drew a walk to bring the Owls a run closer, giving way to Krista Ward to keep the inning, and Oregon Tech’s championship hopes, alive. An RBI single from the second baseman made it a 5-3 game.
So Kennedy Jantzi steps in for the Owls. She hits a slow roller between the third baseman and shortstop to score another run and it’s a one-run ballgame. Raiders head coach Jessica Pistole went with a pitching change, bringing in Lauren Quirke to get one out and save the SOU lead. Logan Nunes, the seasoned veteran, drew a walk to bring in the tying run and extend the game.
A scoreless eighth brought us to the ninth inning. Donovan led off the ninth inning for the Raiders and she did it with a bang. A solo shot to straight-away center field put the Raiders on top 6-5 in the ninth. Tayler Walker singled to get aboard and was left there until Olivia Mackey hit a triple into right-center to make it 7-5 headed to the bottom of the ninth.
Oregon Tech threatened again in the bottom half. They had the tying run on first with one out, but come up just short.
This article will be updated later tonight after NewsWatch 12 Sports is able to talk to the teams.