Nearly 400 pitches — 397, to be exact — were thrown in Game 5 of the Baton Rouge regional between McNeese State and Arizona State.
But in the end, the Sun Devils leisurely trotted in Katee Aguirre with the winning run when Jennifer Soria was walked with the bases loaded for a 3-2, 14-inning victory Saturday night, advancing them to the regional final against LSU at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“This is what we came here for,” Sun Devils co-interim head coach Letty Olivarez said. “It didn’t matter if we won the first game or lost the first game; we wanted to be here at the end. We know it’s not going to be an easy road, and we’re going to have to play our best. But we’re fighters.”
Arizona State (32-25) has to beat LSU twice Sunday to advance, which it failed to do last season. LSU, which lost to the Sun Devils on the regional’s second day in 2015, defeated Arizona State in back-to-back games last season to snag a super regional spot.
After a single and a double to begin the 14th, Arizona State pinch hitter Marissa Stankiewicz was intentionally walked, which loaded the bases. The next batter struck out looking at a 2-2 pitch before Soria took the game-winning walk and Aguirre came home to score.
“It was a tough game,” McNeese coach Joanna Hardin said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to Arizona State.”
Arizona State most likely will be without its ace, Kelsey Kessler, against the Tigers, but the Sun Devils are “gelling” at the right time, freshman reliever Dale Ryndak said.
“We’re in a zone,” said Ryndak (9-6), who got Saturday’s win in relief.
After her first 182 pitches Saturday, Kessler shook her right shoulder in the seventh inning and geared up for No. 183.
Backed against a two-out, bases-loaded jam, Kessler rifled a strike, stranded two McNeese base runners and extended a 1-1 game into extra innings.
Sixteen pitches, two singles and one earned run later, Kessler’s day ended at 199 pitches — and 326 through three games in the regional.
Those singles stretched McNeese’s lead to 2-1. But in the bottom half of the inning, Soria sent a solo home run over Tiger Park’s left-field wall to tie it again.
In the bottom of the second, the Sun Devils’ Nos. 7-8-9 hitters loaded the bases before McNeese’s Emily Vincent walked in Arizona State’s first run.
McNeese equaled the score in the top of the third inning on a sacrifice fly from Tori Yanitor.
Between the fourth and seventh, neither team scored, leaving the game in a 1-1 tie after regulation.