It’s what Sandra Simmons said she has worked her whole life for.
It’s what Allie Walljasper said perfectly illustrates the team’s “Power of One” motto.
And it’s what Beth Torina has molded her program to expect, rather than aspire to.
It’s Oklahoma City.
With bats resembling those that powered it to a historic 25-0 start and Carley Hoover’s momentum-shifting relief appearance, the LSU softball team Sunday clinched the program’s fourth berth in the Women’s College World Series, dispatching Arizona 10-5 in Game 2 of the Baton Rouge super regional.
Simmons roped a two-run single that resurrected an almost-defunct rally in the first, hit a two-run homer out of Tiger Park in the third and started a huge insurance-run rally in the seventh with a triple, propelling an offense that for the past month had been searching for the consistency it exuded during its torrid start.
“Today, I think we came out with a different energy, and it was amazing,” Simmons said. “Positive energy, encouragement, just uplifting — knowing we were going to win this game today.”
But it was Hoover, a day removed from her one-hitter in Game 1 of the series, who carried the Tigers to Oklahoma City. Before Hoover entered, Tigers freshman Allie Walljasper walked in two runs, trimming the LSU lead to 8-5 with one out in the fifth.
Hoover needed only seven pitches, striking out all-super-regional member Mandie Perez and Mo Mercado to subdue the uprising and incite the rowdy, overflow crowd.
“That was a huge moment,” Torina said. “She’s such a competitor. Allie threw a great game but had some bad luck in that inning. I think (Hoover) truly thrives in those moments. She loves those moments. It’s so easy to forget that she’s just a freshman, that both of them are just freshmen.”
“I thought that was a very veteran moment from a freshman.”
Hoover faced more danger in the sixth as the senior-laden top of Arizona’s order produced consecutive two-out singles to bring the Wildcats’ leading hitter, Kellie Fox, to the plate.
Challenging her with a 1-2 pitch, Hoover induced a popout to first base to strand two more.
Much like Saturday’s 8-0 rout, LSU started quickly. In the first inning, No. 2 hitter Bailey Landry placed a perfect bunt single, nearly identical to the one she laid down Saturday, for the Tigers’ first hit. Wildcats starter Michelle Floyd followed with consecutive walks to Bianka Bell and Sahvanna Jaquish, loading the bases with one out.
After Kellsi Kloss popped up to short, Simmons, named the Baton Rouge super regional MVP, fought off an inside 1-2 pitch, blooping it into shallow right to score Landry and Bell.
“It’s so fun to watch Sandra succeed,” Torina said. “She works so hard. Puts in as much time as anyone on this team. To see a player that puts in so much time succeed is really fun for a coach.”
Designated player Constance Quinn followed with a rocket through the middle, again on a two-strike pitch, to chase home Simmons and Jaquish and give the Tigers a 4-0 lead after their first at-bat for the second straight day.
Quinn and Simmons combined for eight RBIs, six coming with two outs. Simmons was particularly effective with two strikes, launching her first inning single and her sacrifice fly with two strikes against her.
“They were so successful early that they weren’t behind very often,” Torina said. “They weren’t in spots where they had to come back or regain a lead. Being there lately, I think they understand what they’re capable of, and it doesn’t matter whether there’s two strikes or two outs, they have a great mentality.”
Walljasper had some early jitters, issuing a leadoff single, botching a routine throw to first on a grounder from No. 2 hitter Chelsea Suitos and walking Fox to load the bases with no outs. She buckled down to induce an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly to limit the damage to two runs.
Walljasper settled down, though, limiting Arizona to one more run until her trouble in the fifth.
After Hoover’s heroics in the fifth and sixth left LSU clinging to a three-run advantage, Simmons’ triple catalyzed a two-run seventh that ensured the victory. Quinn followed the triple with her second RBI double, and senior Dylan Supak, playing her final game in Tiger Park, added a pinch-hit RBI single.
Advancing to Oklahoma City for the second time under Torina, the fourth-year coach expects her Tigers to attack the spotlight a bit differently than their first trip together: a 1-2 appearance in 2012.
“I think last time, we were happy to be there,” she said. “This team’s goal isn’t just to get to the College World Series. This team’s goal is to win it.”