HATTIESBURG, Miss. — A little luck was all that separated Karlee Coughlin and Lindsie Scholwinksi, two of the country's top arms, in the NAIA Opening Round's Hattiesburg Bracket opener Monday morning.
Coughlin, a freshman from Live Oak, Calif., lived up to her budding reputation while going toe-to-toe with Southeastern (Fla.) University's senior ace. But a couple of well-placed grounders gave Scholwinksi the upper hand as the 22nd-ranked Fire defeated No. 20 Southern Oregon, 1-0, at Fail Field.
Scholwinksi (22-9) completed a five-hit shutout, her fifth of the season, with seven strikeouts and no walks, allowing just two Raiders to reach second base. She got a run to play with in the top of the first, when Taylor Stoltz reached on a leadoff walk and Cheyenne Blah and Kiah Ferrell hit consecutive one-out dribblers through the left side to chase her home.
Coughlin (15-2) eased through the final six frames in her 13th complete game of the season. She allowed four hits — all singles — struck out four and walked one, totaling 79 pitches and 55 strikes. In 21 innings over three postseason starts, the right-hander has allowed 14 hits and two runs.
The second-seeded Raiders (40-13) will play an elimination game at 10:30 a.m. today against fourth-seeded Indiana University Southeast (28-22), which dropped a 5-1 decision Monday to top-seeded and seventh-ranked William Carey (43-9), the bracket host. The third-seeded Fire will face WCU at 8 a.m. for a spot in Wednesday's championship game; the loser will play the SOU-IU Southeast winner in another elimination game at 1 p.m.
Scholwinksi's win was the 55th of her two-year career with the Fire (42-15), who last year came out of the Sun Conference to reach the NAIA World Series and were one away from advancing to the national title game in the team's fourth year of existence.
After giving up a pair of hits in the second, she struck out Abigail Lund swinging to get out of the jam. Over the next four innings, she allowed only Kayleen Smith's bunt single.
In the seventh, the Raiders nearly solved her. She needed 11 pitches to strike out the leadoff batter, Taylor Martinez. With one out, Coughlin served her second hit of the game into right field on a full-count delivery. But with pinch-runner Davalin Ontiveros at first, Scholwinksi induced back-to-back innocent ground balls to finish off the win.
Six of the Raiders' 13 losses this season have been decided by one run. They'd only been shut out once previously.