MEDFORD—The Southern Oregon softball team is one win away from clinching a spot in the NAIA World Series, as the Raiders got past a big test in day two of the Opening Round.
A home run from sophomore Tayler Walker and a diving catch from senior Tiana Brown were the two momentum boosting plays that led the Raiders to their third win of the season over two-seed Hope International.
SOU was nursing a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning and the Royals were threatening for more, until Brown zapped all the momentum from their dugout with a spectacular diving catch.
"I was going and I didn't think about the fence until I was getting probably one foot from it and then I realized, 'Okay protect your knee.' But I was still diving no matter what, it was still going to be caught," she said.
It got SOU out of the jam, inspired the offense for a run in its half of the inning, and then allowed it to put the game away for good after a solo shot from Tayler Walker—her fourth home run of the season.
"I actually thought it was going to be a fly ball that they were going to catch so I was really surprised, but if felt great. I was seeing her pitches really well and I was just ready to get my pitch and just take it," Walker said.
SOU ace Gabby Sandoval was excellent once again.
She spun her 29th complete game and has now pitched her team’s past 35 innings.
"She's not intimidated by anyone or any team and I think that that's really cool and I love having her on the mound. I just love being behind her when she's pitching," Walker said.
It amounted to a 4-1 win for the Raiders, their 15th win in 17 tries over ranked opponents.
They’ll face the Royals again on Wednesday at 11 a.m., with Hope International needing to beat them twice to advance out of the bracket.