First, there was Bailey Landry’s overlooked — but perfect — bunt in the first inning.
Then, her running catch that became a turn-and-spin double play to quell a rare Arizona threat.
Next, a booming home run to put LSU up by that magic number of eight.
But how about that catch in the gap to erase a rare Carley Hoover mistake in the fourth?
“I literally just gave up a triple,” Hoover thought as she raced to back up third base.
“No, you just gave up an out,” Landry told her in the dugout just after she chased down the Mandie Perez liner.
LSU rode Landry’s dynamic day at the plate and in right field, scored in every inning but the fourth, and got a one-hitter from Hoover, coasting to an 8-0, mercy-rule win against Arizona on Saturday that put the Tigers a victory away from their third berth in the Women’s College World Series.
One more win Sunday would give the Tigers the Baton Rouge super regional title. The teams will meet at 4 p.m. on ESPN; if necessary, a third game would follow on ESPN2.
Landry’s home run, a line-drive rocket off reliever Siera Phillips, cleared the scoreboard in right field and gave LSU an 8-0 lead in the third inning, an advantage it built off erratic Arizona pitching that issued eight walks and timely hitting from the heart of the order.
It was Landry’s glove, though, that made the biggest impression on the record Tiger Park crowd of 2,559, starting in the second. Arizona third baseman Lauren Young sent a sinking liner toward the line in right, which Landry ran down. She then spun and fired a strike to Bianka Bell covering second base to double off Mo Mercado and end an Arizona threat.
“I think her defense has continued to get better and better as she’s been a part of this program,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “That’s probably the area she’s grown the most. She’s got such great speed, and she’s able to utilize that.”
And then there was the fourth, when Hoover issued a walk to NCAA RBIs leader Chelsea Goodacre with one out. Perez turned on Hoover’s second pitch in the next at-bat, sending a sure-fire extra-base hit toward the right-center gap.
Landry, in communication with center fielder A.J. Andrews, sped over to make the play, rob Perez and relieve Hoover, who hung a pitch right over the middle.
“It makes my job a lot easier,” Hoover said. “I can go after batters so much easier and with so much more confidence when our defense is playing like that.”
Hoover erased a near disaster in the first inning, when she fired six straight balls to start her outing and walked the first two batters she faced. Torina sauntered to the circle to calm the freshman.
“She was just trying to find the zone and was making too many adjustments,” Torina said. “I told her, ‘Be more consistent with your location, and we’ll win a lot more pitches with the umpire.’ She didn’t need to make that many (adjustments), and bounced right back from it.”
Arizona starter Trish Parks, normally not the Wildcats’ opening night starter, suffered a similar fate to start her outing. She sandwiched walks to Andrews and Bell around Landry’s perfect bunt single that died just in front of home plate to load the bases for cleanup hitter Savannah Jaquish.
Jaquish turned on Parks for a single through the right side, scoring Andrews and Landry to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
“I looked across the field and told her it was perfect,” Torina said. “She got the barrel on the ball in the exact spot, hit the exact ball we needed. It was truly the perfect at-bat.”
Catcher Kellsi Kloss followed with a warning-track double that hit off the center-field wall to bring home Jaquish for a 3-0 lead. Parks tossed a wild pitch a batter later to make it a 4-0 deficit.
By Torina’s standards, Jaquish’s at-bat was perfect. Hoover was nearly perfect. And without a Sydney Bourg miscue on a throw to first, the defense would have been perfect.
“Will we attempt to be like that again tomorrow?” Torina asked. “Sure.”