GULF SPRINGS, Ala. — Like Thursday’s pool play opener, the Oregon Tech Owls softball team fell behind in the first inning. Unlike their first game, the damage was too great that OIT couldn’t overcome the big deficit, as the Owls lost 5-1 to Shorter University (Ga.). Oregon Tech’s strong season and repeat bid at the NAIA Softball National Championship is over with a final record of 41-8.
Oregon Tech errors aided a quick start for Shorter. Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jackie Castaneda kept fouling off pitches from OIT starter Taylor Schmidt, extending an at bat that ended with a walk. Amanda Dailey’s double to right-center field, the first of three doubles for Shorter on the day, scored Castaneda.
After Oregon Tech earned the second out catching Emily Clements stealing, Brooke Bryan reached on an error by Owls third baseman Jess Plummer, allowing Dailey to score and Shorter led 2-0.
Following a single, conference freshman of the year Maddie Bray hit a double that was nearly caught by OIT right fielder Sara Coates, but fell out of her glove at the end. The play scored another run, making the Shorter lead 3-0.
Oregon Tech head coach Greg Stewart argued Coates was showing the ball to the umpire when it slipped out. If the play had been ruled an out, the inning would have ended with Shorter holding a 2-0 lead. It didn’t.
Aided by another Oregon Tech error, Shorter went on to score two more runs to end the first inning with a 5-0 lead and getting Schmidt out of the game. Schmidt became Oregon Tech’s all-time leader in wins for a pitcher in a single season earlier in the tournament.
Oregon Tech tried to answer the very next inning, getting Schmidt on base when she hit by a pitch and moving her to third when Kayde Schaefer picked up her first hit of the tournament on a double. Shorter starting pitcher Bray went on to strike out the next three batters in a row and the Owls came up scoreless.
It wasn’t until fifth inning that OIT mustered a run. Senior Janelle Cromie hit a double and then later scored after a Melissa Logan ground out followed by a passed ball.
Logan pitched in relief of Schmidt to a line of 3 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and preventing any more runs. Schmidt took the loss, later returning for a total of 2 2/3 innings allowing five hits and only one earned run.
Coates finished the tournament with a hit in each game. Senior Amber Knight played for the second straight game, coming in early to play left field. Fellow senior Ashleigh Larson helped with a inning-ending double play that kept OIT’s chances alive.
Oregon Tech is now 10-2 in the NAIA tournament in the last two seasons.
Shorter (49-11) will go on to Monday’s eight-team double-elimination tournament.