The Southern Oregon University softball team is in the midst of their best season in quite some time. The Lady Raiders are 27-11 overall and 13-5 in conference, and are nationally ranked (currently 25th) for the first time since 2006. SOU travels to rival Oregon Tech for a showdown on Saturday for a double header at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Head coach Jessica Pistole is in her third season with the team, and attributes one factor in the team’s jump back to national prominence, “These girls are a talented group that have bought into the culture of hard work. Talent can take you so far, but their mentality is to take it to the next level.”
Pistole says the pitching core has also been paramount, “It starts and stops in the circle.” The pitching staff has been lead this season by players on the opposite ends of their careers. On the tail end of her career, senior Sydney White has a team-leading 63 strikeouts and a 2.62 ERA with 10 wins and 5 losses in 14 starts. Freshman Victoria Mackey has an eye-popping 1.87 ERA and 36 strikeouts with a 12-2 record.
The offensive side of the ball is partly a two player show as well. Sophomore Kelsey Randall leads a majority of the major categories, with 49 hits, a .383 batting average (BA), .420 on base percentage (OBP), 24 steals, and 14 runs batted in (RBI). Kayleen Smith has a team-best 25 RBI’s and 30 steals, on 44 hits, .376 BA, and .411 OBP.
They aren’t the only ones contributing though, as senior Alexa Gonzalez has an efficient 24 RBI’s on 34 hits and junior Tyler Burke has a .364 BA, .614 slugging percentage, and .408 OBP.
The previously mentioned hard work and buying into the system has propelled SOU to their stellar record, including two victories over OIT last weekend, but Pistole wants to keep on rolling.
Wins over OIT this weekend would be instrumental in ripping away the crown to clinch the Raiders’ first Cascade Conference West title since 2005. And SOU is up for the challenge. “They’re a good team, but we know we can win the big games and know we can beat them… We’re preparing, we’re going hard, and we’re gunning for them.”
Following OIT, the Raiders have 8 conference games remaining, with double headers against Northwest Christian, Corban, British Columbia, and Northwest. The Raiders have swept all those teams except two losses to Corban. The other 3 CCC losses this season came to two against Eastern Oregon and one against Great Falls.