Arizona State’s Abby Spiel, desperate to cut her team’s deficit in half, sprinted home from third base with two outs in the sixth inning as LSU right fielder Bailey Landry snagged a line drive.
Emily Griggs knew that was a mistake.
“(Landry) has one of the most consistent arms I’ve ever seen,” the sophomore outfielder said. “When she caught that ball and the girl went, I was like, ‘Oh no, not a good idea.’ ”
Spiel appeared to just beat Landry’s throw and catcher Kellsi Kloss’ tag, but she was ruled out when Kloss applied a second tag to the protesting Sun Devil. Arizona State co-interim head coach Robert Wagner vehemently disagreed as well and was ejected by home plate umpire Dustin Douglas.
Though the call stirred up controversy, Landry’s precise throw from right field made the whole play possible and helped the Tigers stave off the Sun Devils for a 2-0 win in last Sunday’s Baton Rouge regional title game.
“We practice that play every day,” she said after the game. “So when it happened, it would be a clutch situation.
“But it was easy to stay calm because we had practiced it so much.”
Don’t be surprised the postseason pressure didn’t fluster Landry. It certainly didn’t last year, when she recorded a hit in all 11 postseason games LSU played on the way to a third-place finish at the Women’s College World Series.
As the No. 10-seeded Tigers gear up to face No. 7 seed James Madison in the Harrisonburg (Virginia) super regional starting at 2 p.m. Friday, Landry is again on the upswing late in the year.
The Prairieville native had a hit in all three regional games, continuing to capitalize on her recent move from the nine-hole in the order to the second spot.
“She just has been performing better and better and getting stronger as the season went on,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “ … Bailey was just swinging well, playing well and looked great.”
Landry, who batted second in every game last season, returned to her familiar role for the Tigers’ 3-1 win against Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinals on May 12.
Griggs moved down from the two-hole to the ninth spot, though Torina emphasized the swap had more to do with Landry’s surge than her fellow outfielder’s shortcomings.
In fact, Torina called the two roles “interchangeable” — they’re both linked to leadoff hitter Sandra Simmons and, once the lineup turns over, hit before the Tigers’ trio of power hitters in the heart of the order.
“I think we’re good with (Landry) up there, good with Emily up there,” freshman shortstop Amber Serrett said. “If she needs an RBI hit, she’s got that. And then Emily is good at turning the lineup over. I think they’ve adapted really well.”
They proved so last weekend.
Griggs batted .500 with a pair of runs scored during the regional.
Landry went 6-for-12 with an RBI triple, a vast improvement from the midseason hitting drought that originally sent her to the nine-hole.
The East Ascension High graduate was 9-for-41 with 13 strikeouts in three-game series against No. 1 Florida, No. 10 Georgia, No. 16 Kentucky and Mississippi State, which constituted most of a 13-game SEC stretch in which she didn’t produce an RBI.
It was a microcosm of LSU’s hitting struggles for the first half of conference play.
But Torina insisted the Tigers simply underwent a lull any team would suffer when facing five top 16 teams in that span.
“I just don’t know that any of our kids were in a slump,” Torina said. “I think we faced the best pitching in the whole country.”
Still, Torina moved Landry to the end of the batting order for Game 2 of LSU’s series at Mississippi State.
The junior responded by reaching base in three of eight plate appearances over the rest of the series, signaling a turnaround for herself and her team, which has won 18 of 20 contests since that game.
Now the former second team All-American is on pace to rival last year’s gaudy postseason numbers — a .405 batting average and nine RBIs, which solidified her as the leading hitter (.426) on the most prolific offense in program history.
Whether Landry is assisting crucial putouts at the plate or helping her teammates cross it, Griggs has seen enough to know the postseason brings the best out of her teammate.
“I think Bailey has always been one of the best players I’ve played with,” Griggs said. “She’s extremely consistent and works extremely hard, and her hard work shows a lot more in the postseason just because things do get harder. I think how hard it gets really brings her up.”