OKLAHOMA CITY — After LSU beat Alabama 6-4 on Saturday afternoon to stay alive in the Women’s College World Series, the Tigers had their usual postgame discussion of whom to name player of the game.
Should it be either of the pitchers: Carley Hoover, who pitched five strong innings to got the win, or Allie Walljasper, who pitched two scoreless innings to get the save?
Should it be Sandra Simmons, who led off the game with a home run, or Sahvanna Jaquish, who matched Simmons’ two runs batted in?
What about Amber Serrett for her stellar defense at shortstop or second baseman Constance Quinn, who started an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the third inning and LSU clinging to a 2-1 lead?
And don’t forget about reserve infielder Sydney Bourg, who helped keep the visitors dugout in ASA Hall of Fame Stadium upbeat amid the pressure of having to win to keep the season alive.
In a game that could have been the last of the season, the Tigers for the first time all season chose all of the above — and more.
“We decided it was a team nomination,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We had people bunting, we had people hitting doubles, we had pitchers coming out of the bullpen, we had kids turning double plays. We had a lot of people that contributed to a really strong team win.”
The Tigers (51-17), who dropped into the losers’ bracket in a 2-0 defeat against Michigan on Friday, will play an elimination game at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2) against Georgia, which lost to Auburn 4-3 on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (51-14) was the first of four Southeastern Conference teams in the tournament to be eliminated as LSU did it to them for a second consecutive season.
“Did you expect anything less from an LSU-Alabama matchup?” Torina said. “It’s going to be a battle every time the two teams take the field.”
Hoover (21-8) was cruising with a 6-1 lead until Leona Lafaele led off the sixth with her 15th home run of the season. Hoover hit the next batter, an error by Simmons at first base and a single by Chandler Dare cut the lead to 6-3, and Walljasper relieved Hoover.
After an infield single loaded the bases, Sydney Booker hit a sharp grounder that bounced over Bianka Bell’s head at third. Bell managed to get her glove on the ball, which caromed to Serrett, who threw home for a force and the first out.
“If Sydney Booker’s ball doesn’t hit Bianka’s glove at third, that’s two runs, and it’s a different game,” Tide coach Patrick Murphy said.
Alabama got one run when Quinn’s misplayed a grounder, but Walljasper got consecutive groundouts to strand the tying runs in scoring position. After Alabama got a one-out single in the seventh, Walljapser grabbed a grounder and started a game-ending double play to earn her third save and second of the postseason.
“Carley made some good pitches, and so did Allie at the end,” Murphy said. “The (last pitch) was a nice jam pitch, so you’ve got to give them credit.”
LSU, which stranded six runners against Michigan, needed little time to get its first run of the WCWS as Simmons drove the seventh pitch of the game over the wall and just inside the foul pole in right field.
“I’m pretty sure I was one of the first ones that ran on the field (to greet Simmons),” Hoover said. “It’s great starting any game with a lead, especially to set the momentum with the lead-off home run.”
The Tigers doubled the lead in the third on Kellsi Kloss’ RBI-grounder.
Alabama cut the lead in the half in the bottom half on Lafaele’s bases-loaded single, but Quinn grabbed Marisa Runyon’s grounder, tagged Lafaele and threw to first to complete a double play.
LSU came right back with four runs in the fourth on Simmons’ RBI-single, a passed ball and Jaquish’s two-run double.
The Tigers, who lost their super regional opener and came back to beat James Madison twice, were on their way to their first WCWS victory. They’ll need three more to reach the championship series, but they’ve won 21 of their past 25 games.
“I’m not surprised at how this team fights,” Kloss said. “I think you’ve seen it over the past month and a half just how much we all want this.”
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.