On the third leg of an improbable road trip, the 2012 LSU softball team sat in a Mexican restaurant in Oklahoma City. All-American pitcher Rachele Fico braided Jacee Blades’ hair at one part of the table. Seated beside them, freshman Dylan Supak turned to look out the window.
“It’s black as night outside,” Supak recalled Tuesday. “Water is leaking in through the windows and everything.”
“I’m from Florida, I’ve never been through a tornado,” said classmate A.J. Andrews. “Give me a hurricane and I know what to do with that, but I don’t know what to do with the tornado.
“Just all a part of the experience. It was wild from the beginning and kept getting crazier.”
Andrews, Supak and senior utility player Kailey McCasland are the only three players remaining from that 2012 team — Beth Torina’s first team in Baton Rouge that embarked on an unlikely run to the Women’s College World Series, including stops at the College Station regional and the Columbia super regional, where the Tigers defeated No. 9 national seed Missouri.
The Tigers jetted straight from Columbia to Oklahoma City, where they eventually went 1-2.
“We didn’t have a moment to catch our breath, the adrenaline was going the whole time,” Andrews said Tuesday before she boarded the bus at Tiger Park.
Since that stay in Oklahoma City, the three seniors have been peppered with questions about the atmosphere and ambiance of the event. Supak answers what teammates should wear to certain events. McCasland recalls the packed stands for practices and games — an atmosphere mimicked at Tiger Park, with one exception.
“They’re all cheering for you,” McCasland said, “and they don’t even know you.”
After LSU’s 10-5 win Sunday to clinch the eighth and final spot in Oklahoma City, Torina noted the difference in mindset between her first World Series-bound team and this year’s group.
Players who were on both teams noticed, too.
“We were complacent with being there (in 2012), but now we know we’re better than pretty much anybody there,” Supak said. “We’ve beaten almost every team, at least on our side of the bracket. We have all the confidence going into it. It’s not if we can do it, it’s will we do it?”
Now, Oklahoma City is an expectation instead of a dream. McCasland said this team, unlike the one in 2012, had a Women’s College World Series appearance as a preseason expectation and worked all season to make it a reality.
And though the World Series stint was short and the entire postseason road trip seemingly unending, the three Tigers seniors gleaned more than enough to impart sage tidbits to the younger Tigers
Foremost among them, Andrews said? Be yourself.
“Do nothing different,” Andrews said. “Play like we’ve always been playing. I think just because we’re on a bigger stage doesn’t mean our performance needs to be bigger or our mindset needs to get bigger. Keep being LSU and keep having fun.”
Supak earns NCAA award
Supak was named winner of the Elite 89 Award for the NCAA Division I Softball Championship on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.
The Elite 89 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at a finals site for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships.
A Kinesiology graduate, the LaGrange, Texas, native maintained a 4.0 GPA and received her degree earlier this month. She is the second LSU player to win the award, as former LSU player Alex Boulet won the honor in 2012.