COLUMBIA, Ky. – There were some tense moments watching each Lindsey Wilson pitch, but in the end the Blue Raiders found four runs on four hits to beat No. 3-seed Davenport (Mich.) 4-1 on Tuesday in the NAIA Softball National Championship Opening Round.
The win pushes the Blue Raiders to the championship game where they will have to beat unbeaten No. 1-seed Auburn Montgomery (Ala.) two times in the double-elimination tournament. The first game starts at 1 p.m. CT with an "if necessary" game to follow at 4 p.m.
Davenport was the team heating up the base paths on Tuesday night, leading Lindsey Wilson in hits 8-4, but stranded 13 batters on base, compared to just two for the Blue Raiders.
Starting pitcher Cheyanne Knepper (12-1) earned the win, allowing just one unearned run on seven hits with five strikeouts in 5-2/3 innings, but walked four batters. The Panthers only run came home on Knepper's wild throw to third trying to get a force out on a fielder's choice.
After the error, Knepper had runners on the corners with two outs, but got center fielder Amber Getty to ground out to end the threat.
Facing a 1-0 deficit, right fielder Andrea Whelan didn't allow it to last long, leading off the Blue Raiders' half of the inning with a home run to left field on a 1-0 count.
The 1-1 tie looked like it was in danger in the next inning as Davenport got a walk and two singles to load the bases with just one out. Knepper struck out third baseman Alexis Powell for the second out and got Lindsey Allen to pop out at third base to get out of the inning.
After avoiding the scare, Lindsey Wilson went to work for some separation as left fielder Antoinette Jenkins hit a two-out triple to score catcher Jane Egiazarova from second and came home herself on a bobble at third to take a 3-1 lead.
Keeping up the trend, Davenport made a run at a rally again in the sixth, loading the bases on two walks and a single. This time there were two outs and reliever Jordan Hood was called on to finish the job. Hood struck out right fielder Ashleigh Blovsky for the final out and stayed in the the rest of the way for the save (6).
Hood allowed just one hit and struck out two in 1-1/3 innings of work.
Center fielder Ali Hart hit a two-out solo home run to center to make the lead 4-1 in the sixth as the Panthers grounded out twice and struck out around a hit to end the game in the seventh.
Lindsey Wilson (50-9) reaches 50 wins for the first time in program history as Jenkins, Whelan, Krupinski and Hart all finished with one hit. Both shortstop KC Dunne and second baseman Carli SanMillan led Davenport with two hits each as its season ends at 36-14-1.