Clermont, Fla.--A marathon day for Southern Oregon softball nearly finished with an improbable run to the NAIA National Championship Game. But after not starting their first game until 10 p.m. ET and their next one not until 1 a.m., the Raiders ran out of gas—their season ending at 3 a.m. on Thursday, just short of their end goal.
“I’ve never been more mentally ready for a game for that long and I felt that with this team,” senior shortstop Kelsey Randall said.
“This whole week was a marathon and I think we handled it all well," senior catcher Harlee Donovan added. "I don’t think we would do anything different had we got to redo it.”
The Raiders began the day four wins away from a national title and two from getting to the title game.
With a 3-2 win over two-time defending champion Oklahoma City in game one, SOU made sure there would be a new NAIA champ in 2018. The win marked its fourth straight in an elimination game.
In game two of the day, the Raiders sent freshman Allie Hancock to the circle against a blistering Columbia College offense, as ace Gabby Sandoval had started (and completed) each of SOU's past three games.
The Cougars struck first, putting up a three-spot in the third inning to take the lead.
The Raiders got to within one on a two-run double from Donovan the next half frame, but the Cougars continued to barrel balls up and struck for three more in the sixth.
It marks the end of SOU's season, but after making it farther than any team in school history, the Raiders said they're pleased with the legacy left.
“This whole group of people, (they're) fighters. They believed in each other. We had fantastic leaders. Everybody was just all in," head coach Jessica Pistole said.
“It was definitely the best time of my life," Randall said. "This team has made my life and this program means the world to me. These girls are special.”