By Morgan Prewitt
After a historic regular season defined by iconic moments, the eighth-ranked LSU softball team’s win in the Baton Rouge NCAA Regional was no different with everything from dominant wins to nail-biting extra innings victories.
The Tigers’ bats came through with clutch hits, despite inconsistency at the plate throughout the weekend, in back-to-back wins against No. 23 Arizona State on Sunday to propel LSU to its first Super Regional appearance since 2012.
“Ultimately, I’m so proud of the team,” said LSU coach Beth Torina. “I’m proud of their fight. I feel like a sleeping giant has been awoken. Hopefully, we can continue to roll this into the next weekend, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a great postseason run.”
LSU made a statement with a 15-0 dismantling of the Texas Southern in five innings in its regional opener on Friday night.
Despite their success against Texas Southern, the Tigers’ lineup fell flat against Arizona State’s freshman ace Breanna Macha in a 1-0 loss Saturday afternoon.
After senior center fielder A.J. Andrews walked and sophomore right fielder Bailey Landry reached on bunt single in the first, Macha retired the next 13 batters she faced.
Macha’s success stemmed from her ability to shut down the Tigers’ power-hitting trio of Bell, sophomore third baseman Sahvanna Jaquish and junior catcher Kellsi Kloss. The heart of LSU’s order went 0-for-9 at the plate with two strikeouts.
“It’s going to be tough to win games when your three, four and five hitters go zero for [nine],” Torina said.
With the Tigers on the brink of elimination mere hours later against Nebraska, Kloss and Jaquish secured a 3-2 victory with clutch hits in the 10th inning to extend LSU’s season and earn a spot in the regional final.
Kloss stepped up to the plate with two runners on base and the score knotted at 1-1 in the top of the 10th inning. On the third pitch of the at-bat, she gave LSU the lead with an RBI single to right field.
Jaquish drove in the critical insurance run with an RBI single to left field, her first hit in seven at-bats.
Having avoided elimination against Nebraska on Saturday, the Tigers went into the final day of the regional determined to approach the plate differently.
The Tigers’ change in perspective translated into early success at the plate and a 5-0 victory to force a Game 2 of the regional final against Arizona State. After earning just four hits against Macha on Saturday, LSU rattled off three hits and drove in a run against her in the top of the first inning and never looked back.
The Tigers added a run on an error in the third before sophomore designated player Constance Quinn drove in the final three runs with a single in the sixth and a double in the seventh, respectively.
The Tigers cruised to an easy win in the first game Sunday, but Arizona State battled and forced extra innings the regional finale before LSU’s clutch hitting sealed a 4-3 victory in the ninth.
LSU took command early by driving in two runs with a pair of two-out RBI singles in the bottom of the first, but the Sun Devils answered in third with a two-run inning of the their own.
Following three scoreless innings, extra innings seemed guaranteed until Arizona State broke the tie with a run in the top of the seventh inning. LSU knotted the score up at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning when Landry’s RBI double scored freshman left fielder Emily Griggs.
The Tigers’ clutch hitting returned to earn the win in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth, following an uneventful eighth inning.
Sydney Bourg led off with a single and Griggs advanced her with a sacrifice bunt. Andrews then dropped a single behind second base, bringing Landry to the plate with one out and two runners on base.
On the second pitch of the at-bat, Landry appeared to drive in the winning run on a fielder’s choice, but the ball hit Andrews as she raced toward second and she was called out on interference.
The Tigers did not have to wait long before Bell drove in the winning run with a walk-off single up the middle on the very next at-bat.
“I just had a lot of things burning through my head,” Bell said. “I just tried to fight through it and just tried to bounce back and beat them with the sticks.”
As the No. 5 national seed, LSU will host the Arizona Wildcats during the NCAA Super Regional in Tiger Park this weekend.