LSU softball coach Beth Torina will take a win any way her team can get it.
The No. 10 seed Tigers gave her three at the NCAA tournament’s Baton Rouge regional this past weekend, which they won with relative ease in the minimum number of games. While earning the right to face No. 7 seed James Madison in the Harrisonburg (Virginia) super regional beginning at 2 p.m. Friday, LSU (48-15) dispatched its regional opponents in a few different fashions.
“I think our team has done a great job of finding a lot of different ways to win,” Torina said Sunday. “They can win by throwing a shutout. They can win by scoring a lot of runs. They can win by small ball. They can do so many different things.”
The Tigers first used an offensive surge for a 10-2, mercy-rule victory Friday against Long Island University Brooklyn, the No. 4 seed in the Baton Rouge regional. After a quiet start, the Tigers scored five runs with no outs in the sixth inning to claim their 17th run-rule win.
LSU found runs a little harder to come by the rest of the weekend, but it rode the hot bat of junior catcher/infielder Sahvanna Jaquish to top No. 2 regional seed McNeese State 4-1 on Saturday.
She collected three run-scoring hits while sophomore pitcher Carley Hoover, named the regional MVP, kept the Cowgirls in check for her second win of the weekend. Hoover notched two critical bases-loaded strikeouts to preserve an early 1-0 lead and later stranded the tying run in scoring position.
The right-hander earned a save in Sunday’s regional title game, a 2-0 win that required some small ball. But the Tigers got it from an unlikely source: Sophomore pitcher Allie Walljasper, inserted into the lineup for her power, laid down the first and second sacrifice bunts of her career, one of which plated a run thanks to a throwing error.
Walljasper also scattered three hits in 5.1 innings before Hoover trotted out to relieve her.
“She did exactly what you’re supposed to do. She followed the plan and did a really great job,” Hoover said. “And also at the plate, she was super selfless. She was just an all-around MVP teammate.”
LSU allowed only three runs across 20 innings. The Tigers have won 18 of their past 20 games, an abrupt turnaround after a rocky start to Southeastern Conference play.
“That’s what we’ve worked on from day one — how to fight and to never give up,” senior first baseman/left fielder Sandra Simmons said. “Especially postseason, it’s really who wants it the most and who’s willing to fight the most and put all of it in because nothing else is guaranteed. I think we did the little things great this weekend. You can expect us to continue doing that.”
The Tigers’ next shot to do so will be against JMU (49-4) in a best-of-three super regional that will grant the winner a spot in the eight-team Women’s College World Series. The Dukes dominated their regional as well, defeating their three opponents by a combined score of 22-2. They’ve won 19 of their past 20, with the lone loss coming by one run in a 15-inning game against Elon on April 30.
Torina has no qualms playing a super regional on the road, which her 2012 squad did en route to an appearance in the WCWS. On top of that confidence, the Tigers insist they’re still improving.
“I think we can always grow from greatness. I think, no matter what, this team is destined for greatness, and we’re going to get that point,” Simmons said. “There’s still so much more that we can accomplish.”
LSU is only two wins away from returning to the WCWS, and the Tigers know they can accomplish that goal in more ways than one.
“I like how we battled throughout,” Torina said. “This time of year is not always going to be pretty. It’s about finding a way to win.”