MEDFORD—For the first time ever, both Southern Oregon and Oregon Tech are headed to the NAIA Softball World Series.
Both number one seeds didn’t lose a game in the NAIA Opening Round.
Southern Oregon beat Marymount on Monday and then No. 11 Hope International each of the past two days.
"It's so awesome. We deserve it all. We have put so much work in this year and it's going to pay off in Missouri, I know it," sophomore infielder Tayler Walker said.
Wednesday’s win was especially thrilling.
Needing to take just one in the championship game of the Southern Oregon Bracket, the Raiders found themselves trailing 3-1 in the 5th inning.
Their ace, Gabby Sandoval, was out of the circle; their offense had only mustered one hit in the past three innings; but their confidence wasn’t shaken.
"Two runs is nothing compared to what we know we can push across by just simply executing the little things,” head coach Jessica Pistole said. “Get someone on base, move her over, score her on a base hit."
It wound up being as simple as that—Lauren Quirke and Walker were at the center of it all.
Quirke cut the deficit to one with a single in the fifth, and Walker immediately followed with a single of her own to knock her in and tie the game.
The duo was at it again in the 7th inning.
Quirke got on base with a walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and Walker pushed her across to put SOU on top 4-3.
"I saw that girl yesterday, I was hitting well off her so I knew today that if I just see the ball and trust my hands that the ball will do the work and the pitch will do the work for me,” Walker said. “I just went in super confident."
With each clutch moment in the box, Quirke was helping herself out in the circle.
She tossed four innings of relief, which included the final out to send the Raiders to Missouri.
The NAIA World Series starts next Thursday, and is a ten-team, double-elimination tournament.
All No. 1 seeds in the Opening Round have advanced.
Oregon Tech opens the tournament at 8 a.m. PT against Mobile, while Southern Oregon takes on Lindsey Wilson at 2 p.m. PT.