OKLAHOMA CITY — An RBI sacrifice fly to shortstop?
The idea was so crazy, LSU coach Beth Torina didn’t dare try it. As USF’s Kourtney Salvarola drifted back on the infield dirt to catch Allison Falcon’s soft popup, Torina told the third-base runner, A.J. Andrews, to tag up.
As in, stay on the base and take a look.
“She said, ‘Tag,’ which I guess doesn’t mean go,” Andrews said. “(Salvarola) was facing backward, so my instinct was just to try it. It was a really close game, and I knew it would come down to a really close play.”
LSU’s elimination-round matchup with USF at the Women’s College World Series did come down to a close play, and Andrews’ instincts were right. Her daring dash from third to home handed the Tigers a 1-0 win over the Bulls and kept their WCWS hopes alive.
They advance to face No. 3 Arizona State at 6 p.m. after the kind of winning rally that only their offense could produce: hit by pitch, fielding error, hit by pitch, popout to short.
“I’ve been in softball for a long time and seen a lot of things,” Torina said. “I don’t remember if I’ve seen that before, but it was a pretty amazing and gutsy play by A.J.”
Andrews’ mad dash preserved a two-hit shutout from LSU starter Brittany Mack, who struck out eight Bulls and walked four. She faced trouble twice, in the third and fifth, but was able to escape both times with her arm.
In the third, the Tigers broke out their “Bad News Bears” impression and almost gave away a run. USF’s Ashli Goff walked and stole second, where no one from LSU was waiting to take the throw from catcher Morgan Russell. The ball rolled out into center field, and Goff took off for third, where the throw slipped past Tammy Wray over toward the dugout.
That sent Goff racing for home, but Mack was backing up the play and fired home to Russell, who blocked the plate and made the tag.
“That’s actually a drill we do, where we purposely overthrow the bases and then get them out at home,” Torina joked afterward. “So give the credit to me (for the play), but give Brittany the throw.”
Then, in the fifth, the Bulls put two on with a single and walk, and with runners on second and third, Mack struck out former LSU teammate Jessica Mouse to end the inning.
Mack’s performance means LSU can use ace Rachele Fico later Saturday against the No. 3 Sun Devils.
“(Mack has) just been so solid for us lately,” Torina said. “I’m 100 percent confident in her and in both pitchers. This is a big thing we have going for us — our pitching staff. I know we get to turn around and play a second game, and we get to play with a fresh pitcher and another to help us out when we need it.”
Torina said her team did not have much time to study Arizona State, who topped No. 11 Oregon 3-1 on Thursday before falling to No. 2 Alabama on Friday 2-1. The Sun Devils dispatched Louisiana-Lafayette in a super regional.