STARKVILLE, Miss. — The LSU softball team will find out Sunday night just how much its performance in the Southeastern Conference tournament helped it in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee.
The No. 12 Tigers (45-15) almost certainly assured themselves of being a regional host with three wins against three ranked teams, despite a 7-1 loss to No. 8 Auburn in the title game Saturday at Nusz Park.
“We just had a lot of fun out there,” infielder Sahvanna Jaquish said of the four-day run in the tournament. “It was a wild ride. I can’t wait to see who we play in the regional.”
The loss Saturday likely ensured that LSU will not get a top-eight national seed that would enable it to play at home if it advances to a super regional, but all the speculation will end beginning at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Three LSU players on all-tourney team
Three LSU players were named to the all-tournament team — infielder/outfielder Sandra Simmons, who had key hits in all three wins, including two home runs; third baseman Bianka Bell, who had a home run in the semifinal win against Tennessee; and right-hander Carley Hoover, who appeared in all four games and was credited with all three victories.
Hoover the workhorse
Hoover wasn’t at her best Saturday, surrendering five hits and three runs in 3.2 innings in relief of Sydney Smith.
But all in all, it was a remarkable four days for her. In 17 innings, she allowed eight hits and two runs, walking six and striking out 18, before allowing one run in the fifth and two in the sixth Saturday.
“Carley has led us and carried us, and I like what I’m getting out of her right now,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “She’s been phenomenal for us, and she’s throwing great.”
Playing for ‘Turtle’
Auburn was inspired this week to “play for Turtle” out of respect for injured senior shortstop Kelsey “Turtle” Bogaards.
Playing in just her second game of the season after returning from knee surgery, Bogaards was lost for the postseason with another knee injury suffered on Senior Day last Sunday.
“We were her motivation (during rehab); now she’s ours,” said Auburn second baseman Emily Carosone, the tournament MVP. “It’s funny to see how the tables have turned. When she went out that last game, she gave it 100 percent, and that’s what we’re trying to do for her since she can’t.”
Freshmen get their feet wet
The tournament was the first taste of postseason for two freshmen whom LSU is counting on to be significant contributors in the NCAA tournament: shortstop Amber Serrett and Smith.
“I think it’s a great start to the postseason seeing how a world series mentality is because we know there will be so many SEC teams in (the NCAA tournament),” Serrett said. “It was kind of a mini World Series, and it’s good to feel that before you actually get there.”
Smith started LSU’s first and last games in the tournament and allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings, though the four she allowed Saturday were unearned.
“I think it’s neat for a freshman to come in here and start the championship game,” Torina said. “What a cool thing for the program and the future of this program and the future for Sydney Smith.”