CLERMONT, Florida — Conventional has not been Southern Oregon's style throughout its playoff run, and the 20th-ranked Raiders stayed true to form — and hot — in their first NAIA World Series appearance Friday afternoon against Indiana Wesleyan.
Playing the second game of the 10-team, double-elimination tournament at Legends Way Ballfields, the eighth-seeded Raiders were hitless and trailing the ninth-seeded Wildcats 3-0 through four innings. They got one back in the top of the fifth, then scored three in the sixth despite barely getting the ball out of the infield with the help of some shaky defense, eventually making a 4-3 winner out of freshman pitcher Karlee Coughlin in her fifth complete game of the postseason.
The reward for SOU (45-13) is a date at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time Saturday with top-ranked defending champion Oklahoma City, which has yet to lose against an NAIA foe this year. With an off day Sunday, the Raiders are also assured that their stay will last at least through Monday with the final eight teams.
IWU (44-14), which had swept through the Bowling Green Bracket of the Opening Round, gave Crossroads League player of the Year Kaisey Carson a lead in the bottom of the fourth. Hard-hit doubles from Kristen Exposito and Victoria Boyer put them on the board; Carlie Weaver's run-scoring groundout and Emily Hastings' RBI single up the middle made it 3-0.
That was after the Raiders blew a bases-loaded opportunity in the top of the inning, spoiled in part by a lineup card gaffe that cost them an out. They loaded them again in the fifth, though, as singles by Aaliyah Oliver and Kelsey Randall broke up the no-hit bid. With two outs, Tyler Burke's grounder to third turned into a fielder's choice RBI.
Coughlin (18-2) kept SOU in it with her seven-hitter, allowing just two IWU batters to reach over the final three innings. She also started the sixth-inning sequence with a leadoff single chopped to shortstop, and Nicole Cardoza's intended sacrifice bunt was good enough to become a single, too. After Abigail Lund's bunt moved them into scoring position, Oliver cut the deficit to 3-2 with a blooper that fell just outside the infield dirt past second base. And with two outs, Kayleen Smith's single was smothered in the hole by shortstop Kelsey Kooistra, but Kooistra overthrew first base as the tying and go-ahead runs scored.
Carson allowed six hits, walked three, struck out five and worked around three errors behind her. She was charged with three earned runs.
In nine postseason games including the conference tournament, the Raiders have committed six errors and their opponents have totaled 20.
The win was SOU's sixth of the season when trailing after five innings.
If the Raiders defeat Oklahoma City, they'll play at 2 p.m. Monday against fourth-seeded Davenport (Mich.) or fifth-seeded LSU Alexandria (La.). If they lose, they'll play an elimination game at 9:30 a.m. Monday.