With a wry smile and a heavy dose of irony, Beth Torina acknowledged what most didn’t expect to see when the LSU softball team played fourth-seeded Fairfield on the first day of the Baton Rouge regional.
“Well, it was just how we drew it up,” Torina joked.
The Tigers survived a seventh-inning scare by the Stags, holding on to 2-1 victory Friday night at Tiger Park.
Fairfield, which mustered just two doubles off LSU starting pitcher Sydney Smith through the first six innings, threatened to at least tie the score in the final inning. Stags Catcher Tori Reed reached second base on an error by Tigers third baseman Shemiah Sanchez, and Reed scored on Kristen Ball’s RBI single into left field.
Torina pulled Smith for Carley Hoover, who immediately induced a fielder’s choice, moving pinch runner Cynthia Meringer to second base. Hoover walked Molly Roche to put the potential go-ahead run on first base, but Hoover retired Lacey Olaff and Hannah Futo to end the game.
“I do think it’s huge to have the first (game) under your belt,” Torina said. “It’s a really tough game. You’re tight; you’re nervous. There’s a lot of those factors in it. Once you get it going here, once you get rolling, I think it gets a little bit easier. Not that our game tomorrow is easy by any means, but I think getting those nerves out and getting that first game under your belt is huge.”
LSU (42-18) didn’t do much to support Smith’s effort in the circle, matching Fairfield (26-27) with three hits. The Tigers' only run production came in the first inning, when Sanchez sent a fly ball to right field with two outs.
Fairfield right fielder Amanda Ulzheimer appeared to be camping underneath the ball at the warning track, but it caromed off her glove. Emily Griggs and Bailey Landry scored on the error.
LSU registered just two more hits off Destinee Pallotto after the first inning. The Tigers were 0 for 7 with runners on base against Pallotto.
“They had a great pitcher on the mound tonight, so we have to hand it to her being able to mix in and out, up and down, and just being able to make the adjustments,” Griggs said. “If somebody hit a good ball the first inning, the second inning she was doing the complete opposite.”
But LSU now turns its attention to the regional's marquee matchup: a winner’s bracket game with UL-Lafayette at noon Saturday.
“I know you want to start talking about LSU,” Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said after UL-Lafayette beat McNeese State in regional opener. “So let’s do it.”
LSU and UL-Lafayette have not played since 2013, when the Cajuns beat the Tigers twice in the Baton Rouge regional. Lotief admitted to being the source of “a lot of the drama” between the two schools and called LSU an “incredible program.”
The 15-year Cajuns coach, who is batting throat cancer, said he would like the teams to play yearly, but that is not his focus in the years he has left coaching.
“I’m in a different stage of my life,” Lotief said. “Hopefully, we’re at a different stage, and the sport has grown. What we’re trying to do as bearers of the sport and people that are trying to grow the sport, we’ve got other issues to fight. That’s what we’re talking about. We’ve got issues to fight about equity. We’ve got issues to fight about opportunities for female athletes.
“We would love to play LSU on a regular basis, but if we do or we don’t, they have a great program, and we’ve got a great program. No matter what happens tomorrow, what happened 10 years ago, they’re going to have a great program, and we’re going to have a great program.”