LERMONT, Florida — Southern Oregon's list of heroes keeps growing as the national spotlight grows larger at the NAIA Softball World Series.
In Monday afternoon's tilt with the seventh-seeded and 19th-ranked Warner (Fla.) Royals, senior center fielder Aaliyah Oliver took her turn by preserving SOU's 4-3 lead with an on-the-money throw that cut down the potential tying run at the plate for the second out in the seventh inning. Karlee Coughlin struck out the next batter, keeping the season alive for at least another day at Legends Way Ballfields.
The eighth-seeded and No. 20 Raiders (46-14 overall) have won five straight elimination games during this postseason. As one of six teams left, they'll play another one at 1 p.m. Pacific Time today against second-seeded Columbia (Mo.), which suffered a 5-0 loss Monday to sixth-seeded Corban.
The Royals, who made it out of the Sun Conference for their fourth World Series appearance, ended the season with a record of 29-15.
After their pitcher, Chelsie Valentine, walked the first two batters of the top of the third inning in a scoreless game, the Raiders took advantage. Kayleen Smith's one-out single loaded the bases, and Harlee Donovan cleared them with a lined triple that fell a few inches inside the foul line in deep right field. Tyler Burke came up next and lifted a sacrifice fly to left, putting SOU up 4-0.
Donovan's production brought her school-record RBI total to 63, nine of which have been delivered in elimination games during the national playoffs.
Coughlin — who improved to 19-2 overall and 6-1 in the postseason — buzzed through the first five innings, giving up her only run when Chantal Crockett hit an RBI single up the middle in the third.
She was relieved in the sixth by Gabby Sandoval, who gave up a leadoff double to Sara Bruno and eventually walked in a run. With the bases packed and two outs, however, she got Caylin Delones to wave at a full-count fastball on the outside corner to keep the score at 4-2.
After Sandoval walked the leadoff batter in the seventh, she was relieved by Victoria Mackey. And after Bruno hit a single to right that was paired with a throwing error and allowed Crockett to score, SOU's lead was down to one run. Another walk, putting runners at first and second with one out, triggered Coughlin's re-entry.
The first batter Coughlin saw, Kori Petersen, ripped a single to right-center. Oliver charged to take it on a hop and threw to home on a rope. Donovan corralled the toss, lunged and tagged out pinch-runner Isabella Borges just as she began her sliding motion. The next batter, Tori Johnson, became Coughlin's fourth strikeout victim of the game on a swinging strike three.
The Raiders finished with four hits — Donovan had two, Oliver and Smith had the others — their lowest total in a winning effort since Feb. 14, 2015 in a 2-1 decision against Biola (Calif.).
If they can get past Columbia, the Raiders would be one of four teams left and play against an opponent to be determined at 1 p.m. Wednesday.