The LSU softball team finally got the big hit it needed throughout the NCAA regional and used it to punch their ticket to the super regional round.
Shelbi Sunseri blasted a three-run homer in the fourth inning to break open a tight game and give LSU a 5-1 victory in the championship round at Tiger Park on Sunday.
The victory advances LSU (43-17) to play the winner of the Minneapolis regional set to be completed Monday because of a weather delay. Host Minnesota needs one victory against the Drake-Georgia winner to advance and host the super regional. If Drake or Georgia beats Minnesota twice, LSU will host to the super regional.
Sunseri’s home run, which ties her for the team lead with Shemiah Sanchez (17), was the first LSU hit in four regional games to score more than one run. LSU had left 29 runners on base in three games going into the final game.
“The score was 2-1 and I was just trying to get MB (pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch) some insurance runs,” Sunseri said. “Just get a job done, something in the gap to score some runs. I would say it was an offspeed pitch. I don’t know. I just saw it and hit it.”
Sunseri got a break when the Tiger Park winds that had been blowing in from center field throughout the weekend calmed somewhat. Sunseri got the ball up high and it just got over the glove of leaping Texas Tech center fielder Karli Hamilton at the wall.
Amanda Sanchez added to the power show with a solo homer, her first hit in 12 regional at-bats and first homer since April 27 to tie the game at 1 in the second. LSU went ahead 2-1 in the third inning on a run-scoring single by Amber Serrett.
Gorsuch (13-3) got the victory, her second of the regional, with relief help from Sunseri in the sixth. Gorsuch walked two with two outs, but Sunseri quelled the threat by getting Kelcy Leach on a fielder’s choice grounder.
Sunseri allowed a baserunner to lead off the seventh but got a pop up and two more fielder’s choice grounders to finish it. She threw 179 pitches on Saturday in the 13-inning victory
“What can you say about Shelbi Sunseri?” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “Not only does she pitch, she hits. What we ask of her is so much more and she just gives us everything has and then some.
“I’m proud of the whole team effort. I’m proud to be their coach today.”
The victory capped another long day for both teams, which played 13 innings in an LSU victory Saturday. On Sunday, Texas Tech forced a second game by beating LSU 5-4. Sunseri threw 179 pitches going all 13 innings.
The long Saturday contest plus coming from the loser’ bracket finally caught up to Texas Tech (42-16) and its two-pitcher rotation of Erin Edmoundson and Missy Zoch. Edmoundson threw 174 pitches Saturday and started the first game Sunday. Zoch started the second game after winning the first one in relief.
“Our kids couldn’t fight any harder,” Texas Tech coach Adrian Gregory said. “We did everything we came here to do except walk away with the last win.”
Texas Tech 5, LSU 4 (first game): Jessica Hartwell singled home the go-ahead run in the sixth inning to lift the Red Raiders and force the second game.
LSU put the potential tying run on to lead off the top of the seventh, but Missy Zoch quelled the rally by retiring the next three hitters on ground balls.