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Cathi Aradi

Division II: Darr Hurls CSU Over Florida Southern

Rachael Darr hurled a six-hit shutout as Columbus State stayed alive at the NCAA Division II Softball Championship with a 1-0 win over Florida Southern. 

Darr struck out two and walked one, and moved to 27-2 on the year as her offense scrapped together a second-inning run and her defense came up with a number of stellar plays. 

The win sends the Cougars into a Sunday afternoon match-up with Lock Haven for the right to face SIU-Edwardsville in Monday’s championship game. The two teams, ranked first and second, respectively, in the NFCA Division II Top 25 Poll, faced each other in Thursday’s opening game of the tournament, with LHU winning 3-0 on a pair of home runs. 

Megan Brown, a three time all-American for the Mocs, finished her final season with a 34-10 record after allowing the lone run on five hits with three strikeouts and four walks. 

“When the season ends, it doesn’t matter who ends it,” Brown said. “One day, I will probably be thankful that I got to come here three times with a great team behind me.” 

That lone run came in a wild second inning. Tamela Bell led off the frame with a single to left and advanced to second on a passed ball. Bell advanced to third on Allison Paul’s ground-out to short, and she scored as Cassie Cooper grounded to second and the throw to the plate sailed wide. 

The Cougars got a pair of hits from Carrie Mills and Danielle Aszman to help load the bases, but Brown was able to get a ground ball to end the threat. 

The Mocs appeared to knot the game two innings later. With one out in the fourth, Sarah Kohlbrenner delivered a double to left-center. Two hitters later, Natalie Lang blasted a shot to same gap in left-center. Cooper crashed into the fence, but the Cougars got a stellar throw to the plate from Allison Paul in time to get Kohlbrenner and silence the threat. 

Despite Brown keeping CSU’s potent bats at bay the remainder of the game, FSC was unable to muster any offense as it ended its season with a 51-15 mark. 

The Cougars appeared poised to extend the lead in the bottom of the sixth as a walk to Paul and a single by Cooper put the lead-off batters on. After they advanced to second on Mills’ sacrifice bunt, Erin Brown was intentionally walked to load the bases for Aszman. 

Brown got the CSU second baseman to ground out for the putout at the plate, and she then worked out of the jam by getting Ginny Walsh to hit a hard ground ball to third that was bobbled by Nikki Henderson but picked up in time to get the putout at first base and end the scoring opportunity. 

In its’ final at-bat, Florida Southern got a lead-off single from Angela Williams, but she was put out at second on a fielder’s choice from Leah English. Michelle Tatlock kept the inning going as she laid down a bunt that she managed to beat out and put the lead run aboard. 

“I’m very proud of this team,” FSC head coach Chris Bellotto said. “They’ve been a really special group. We left people on base and couldn’t get the hit at the right time.” 

Darr came up big, however, getting a fielder’s choice to third and a fly-out by Ashley Alpizar in which Erin Brown made a spectacular diving catch, her second of the game, to end the game.