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Owls need extra innings to win first conference tournament title since 2012

A pitcher's duel through and through, the No. 17 Oregon Tech Owls got just enough to take down No. 15 College of Idaho in the eighth inning to win the Cascade Collegiate Conference tournament title.

Posted: May 9, 2021 5:42 PM

ASHLAND, Ore. — A win nine years in the making finally came to Oregon Tech as the Owls defeated College of Idaho in the eighth inning of the championship game in the Cascade Collegiate Conference softball tournament, 1-0.

For the fourth time in three days, Sarah Abramson got the start for Oregon Tech and never looked back. She battled throughout the weekend, throwing 27 innings over the course of three days. In those innings, she pitched three complete-game shutouts including a no-hitter in the opening round against Warner Pacific. Without a doubt, Abramson was the player of the tournament and a large portion of the Owls' weekend dominance.

The junior pitcher out of Milwaukie, Oregon pitched through adversity in more ways than one. Not only did she work around multiple, two runners-on, nobody-out situations, but also battled through a pretty gruesome injury. On Friday, as a result of throwing 12 innings in two games, the pad of her right index finger had split. Just the thought would make most wince at the pain, but Abramson didn't even flinch.

"When I'm out in the circle, I don't think about whatever hurts," Abramson said when describing the injury along with soreness in her shoulder and legs. "It's when I come off the field and the game's over and the job's done, then you can put a bandaid on it."

Held together by sheer will and determination, Abramson threw eight innings in the title game, scattering six hits and one walk while not letting a single Yotes base runner cross home plate. She also struck out seven. 

"I know she was tired, but she never, ever made one excuse and she always kept going and she just bulldogged out the entire tournament," catcher McKenna Armantrout said after the win on Sunday. "It's super impressive and I'm so, so proud of her for just working her butt off this weekend."

The pitcher-catcher duo was on the same wavelength the entire weekend. They've played together for four years so calling a game for Abramson is practically second nature for Armantrout. Together they navigated two, top-tier line ups, shutting out No. 1 Southern Oregon on Saturday and the 15th-ranked Yotes today. Their connection is one of the best head coach Greg Stewart has ever had in his 17 years at the helm.

"There's something to be said for that kind of chemistry," Stewart said after drying off from the celebratory water-cooler shower. "When you have a battery, that's that good and it's as good as any pitcher-catcher combos that I've ever had."

Abramson had to earn her 23rd win of the season today, as she battled inning after inning against the College of Idaho's Hannah McNerney. Through seven innings, both pitchers were relentless in the circle, working around baserunners and tough situations.

The Yotes pitcher only allowed two hits and two walks while striking out four. The trust was put in the defense, but in the end, it was one defensive miscue that cost College of Idaho a chance at the CCC Tournament Title.

McNerney had not allowed a single Owls batter to reach first base between the third and seventh innings, sitting down the Owls in order. Oregon Tech left two runners stranded with no outs in the seventh, the first time it seemed McNerney may have broken a sweat since the second inning.

In the top of the eighth, Abramson worked around a dropped infield flyball and a walk on two borderline strikes that went the Yotes' way. 

The freshman Jensen Becker led off the bottom of the eighth for OIT, 0-for-2 at that point in the afternoon. She singled on the first pitch she saw from McNerney, grounding one up the middle. Armantrout laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Jensen to second with only one out.

Kaila Mick was next to the plate. On a 1-2 count, the freshman shortstop hit a chopper to first base. Becker took off running towards third. The Yotes first baseman, Lacie Miller, fielded the grounder, stepped on first then threw to third to try and get Becker and end the inning. The throw was wide right and past the third baseman's glove. Becker popped up from her slide and sprinted home, sliding across the plate to capture Oregon Tech's first tournament title since 2012.

The crowd erupted and Becker was mobbed at home plate as the 3-seed took down 2-seed College of Idaho for the second time in the tournament.

"I told coach today after the game we hug and I was like, 'we finally did it,'" Abramson said. "Cause it feels like it's been a long time coming."

With the win, the Hustlin' Owls are guaranteed a spot in the NAIA Opening Round. They'll find out where and who they're playing on Tuesday, May 11, during the NAIA Bracket reveal at 2 pm PST.

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