The advantage is usually with the host team in NCAA softball regionals and super regionals, but LSU has a history of turning that notion upside down.
LSU has won road super regionals three times in Beth Torina’s nine previous seasons: Missouri (2012), James Madison (2016) and Florida State (2017). The Tigers will be trying to make it four when they travel to Minneapolis this weekend for a super regional against the University of Minnesota at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium.
LSU (43-17) will play the Golden Gophers (44-12) in the super regional beginning at 4 p.m. Friday on ESPNU; 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2; and 3 p.m. Sunday, if necessary, on ESPN.
“We’ve been on the road for supers, so they’re kind of like a home game,” senior second baseman Shemiah Sanchez said. “Nothing has changed, you go in there and fight. We’re using the confidence we built last weekend, having that roll over will help us a lot this weekend.”
LSU toughed out a regional championship at home, beating Texas Tech two of three. That performance erased the memory of a five-game losing streak through the SEC tournament.
LSU coach Beth Torina said she likes the vibe her team picked up last weekend and preparations have been long underway.
“They feel battle tested,” Torina said. “It was hard, challenging and they were up to the test.
“We started to get prepared for every team in that regional. We’ll be ready. There’s a lot of film on them. We know they are very good. They have an outstanding pitcher Amber Fiser. We’ll give them our best shot.”
Fiser has been lighting it up all season with a 29-7 record, 1.18 ERA and 328 strikeouts in 236⅓ innings. Opponents are batting .165 against her.
Torina said her team needs depth throughout the batting order.
“The key is to have depth on our offense, one through nine, being able to score runs at the bottom of our lineup as much as the top,” she said. “Being tough outs one through nine is the key when you’re facing a good solid pitcher. You can’t let her have any pitches, or any at-bats off.”
On offense the Gophers like to rely on power with 70 home runs (LSU has hit 73). Leading the way is first baseman Hope Brandner with 19 homers and 59 RBIs while Natalie DenHartog has 17 homers and 62 RBIs. Leadoff hitter and second baseman MaKenna Partain is the team’s leading hitter with a .408 average, .505 on-base percentage and a team-high 13 steals.
But running and slapping isn’t the Gophers’ game.
“More power, they don’t really slap a lot and they’ve put up some big numbers,” Torina said. “We’ve played against big power teams in the SEC, so our schedule lends itself to the series. We’ve played in eight super regionals with our SEC series. Our kids understand what it takes.”
LSU got its offense going in time to knock off Texas Tech thanks to Shelbi Sunseri’s three-run homer in the 5-1 final victory. Amanda Sanchez snapped out of her funk with a solo shot to give LSU some hope of getting back into a hitting groove.
“We got our offense clicking again,” Shemiah Sanchez said. “It was good to see Amanda and Shelbi hit home runs again. We started postseason 0-0 and stats don’t matter. We’re taking this intensity and working toward our goal which is to win the national championship.”