After the LSU softball team outlasted Arizona State to win the NCAA tournament’s Baton Rouge regional Sunday, Tigers coach Beth Torina said her team’s victory in the championship game “felt like that should have been a World Series game and not a regional game.”
The same could be said for the entire weekend because LSU experienced most if not all of the elements of the World Series.
There were weather delays, extra innings, a morning game after a late-night game, elimination games and the palpable sense of a premature end to the season followed by the exhilaration of a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
The Tigers will experience the actual Women’s College World Series if they beat Arizona in the best-of-three Baton Rouge super regional beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Park.
“It’s frustrating when things don’t go your way, and you don’t get certain plays or certain at bats done,” said freshman Carley Hoover, who got both wins in back-to-back games against the Sun Devils on Sunday. “But it’s all about controlling the controllables and forgetting about all the other stuff.”
There was a lot of other stuff to forget about. It started with the weather Friday that forced the Tigers and Texas Southern to start more than two hours late and sit through two in-game delays.
The smoothest part of the weekend came when LSU scored 10 runs in the first inning and five in the second on its way to a run-rule victory that wasn’t completed until nearly midnight.
LSU was back to work at 9 a.m. Saturday preparing for its first game against Arizona State. Whether it was the quick turnaround or just the pitching of the Sun Devils’ Breanna Macha, the Tigers batters seemed to have lost their edge during a 1-0 loss.
“We were looking for that one spark to catch fire,” outfielder Bailey Landry said.
Torina said the spark came in the first of three elimination games the Tigers would have to win, a tension-filled 3-2, 10-inning victory against Nebraska on Saturday night.
“I think being able to show that we can still fight through some adversity reminded them that they are capable of that,” she said. “I think that was huge moment.”
The biggest moment came in the top of the 10th when Kellsi Kloss and Sahvanna Jaquish had back-to-back RBI singles after the Tigers had scored just one run in 16 previous innings Saturday.
Torina had flip-flopped Jaquish and Kloss, moving Kloss into the cleanup spot after Jaquish, who slumped late in the regular season, had struck out in two key spots in the 1-0 loss.
The move paid off and Jaquish showed signs of coming around before driving it what proved to be the winning run. She had gone out on a drive to deep center and a sharp liner to short just before the decisive hit.
In Sunday’s opener, Jaquish had three hits and Torina moved her and Kloss back into their customary spots in the order.
Macha pitched around Jaquish and walked her in the first and Kloss followed with an RBI single. The sight of a rejuvenated Jaquish on deck might have affected Macha when Bianka Bell hit a game-winning RBI single with two on in the ninth. In any event, Jaquish’s return to form was a huge boost to the offense.
“I believe 100 percent in Sahvanna Jaquish,” Torina said. “Every time she steps to the plate the other team has to be concerned because she’s capable of doing so many things. She had some great at bats. They may not all show up in the scorebook but she moved runners and did a lot of things to help us win.”
LSU seemed much looser when it took the field Sunday. After beating ASU 5-0, it prevailed in another tense battle, tying the score with a run in the bottom of the seventh, leading to Bell’s hit two innings later.
“I think when they’re loose and when they’re playing with something to prove, that they always seem to do a good job,” Torina said.
Nebraska had three consecutive innings in which it could have ended LSU’s season by scoring a run. Even after falling behind in the top of the 10th, the Huskers still could have done it by scoring two more than the one it did score in the bottom half.
Then ASU was two outs from ending the Tigers’ year when Landry’s RBI double in the seventh saved the season.
“I never felt defeated,” Landry said.
So a team that started the season by winning a school-record 25 consecutive games in a row may have proved just as much during a three-game win streak that prevented the season from ending.
“We definitely saw a side of ourselves that we hadn’t seen in a while,” Landry said. “It’s great to have that back.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.