TUCSON, Ariz. — Things could not have started much more awkwardly for the LSU softball team than they did Friday in the opening game of the Tucson regional of the NCAA tournament.
The team was caught off guard by the national anthem, and the players sprinted out of the dugout to line up on the chalk. Then the Tigers sent bombs bursting in air.
Home runs by three of their first four batters gave the Tigers an early buffer in a 13-9 win over Louisville at Hillenbrand Stadium.
The win advanced LSU to a game against Arizona — a 9-6 victor against Boston University late Friday night — at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Boosted by the early bashes, LSU leapt to a 7-1 lead before the Cardinals fought their way back with a strong three-inning stretch to tie the score at 7 in the fifth. The Tigers responded in the bottom of the fifth to reclaim the lead: Tammy Wray hit an RBI single to score Kellsi Kloss, Allison Falcon scored on an illegal pitch two batters later, Alayna Falcon delivered an RBI single and two runs scored on a throwing error.
“We focus a lot on buying into the plan coaches give us and feeding off each other,” Wray said. “We put trust in everyone before and after us. That helps me personally, staying up and knowing the person behind me is going to get it done.”
While the Tigers recaptured the lead by manufacturing runs, LSU built its early advantage through power in high-scoring Hillenbrand Stadium.
Arizona’s home park has been mighty friendly to the Wildcats’ big bats — they led the nation with 100 home runs entering Friday — and LSU made itself comfortable from the opening batter.
Leadoff hitter A.J. Andrews sent a Maryssa Becker offering over the right-center field wall, Sahvanna Jaquish smacked a Becker pitch to left-center, prompting Becker’s early exit, and Bianka Bell promptly smashed Rachel LeCoq’s first pitch over the center-field wall.
“I give a lot of credit to our offense,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We scored early, scored often and continued to put pressure on Louisville. It gave us unbelievable momentum, and it was unbelievable to have our leadoff hitter set the table like that.”
The Tigers tacked on four more runs with two outs in the bottom of the third as Falcon sparked the surge with a two-run double, one of her three on the day.
“We saw three different pitchers, and it was so important to have a plan,” Falcon said. “We see a lot of live action situations at practice.”
LSU’s big day at the plate helped Baylee Corbello survive one of her worst outings of the season. The Tigers had allowed nine or more runs just four times this year before Friday, but the Cardinals scored in four consecutive innings before Corbello closed things out with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
ESPN: No go on Czechner
During Friday’s broadcast, ESPN said LSU senior pitcher Ashley Czechner did not travel with the team to Tucson because of a violation of team rules.