Considering what the LSU softball team went through to reach the super regional round of the NCAA tournament, it was asking a little too much for some Monday lagniappe.
Minnesota quickly quashed any hope of LSU playing host to a super regional this weekend by eliminating Georgia, 8-1, in a championship game delayed a day by weather. Now the Tigers head to Minneapolis for the best 2-of-3 series with the Gophers for a trip to the Women’s College World Series.
If LSU plays there nearly as tough as Texas Tech played in Tiger Park, the Tigers have a great shot at a fourth WCWS trip in five years. LSU won two of the three game with the Red Raiders — four if you count by innings — and none of it was easy.
“They are such a great team and what a terrific job that their coaches Adrian (Gregory) and Sam (Marder) have done with that program,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “I have no doubt that they will be in this same spot again next year and hopefully they will be battling someone other than us because they are such a tough opponent.”
LSU survived the second round meeting, 5-4, with a 13th inning sacrifice fly by Taryn Antoine and the pitching of Shelbi Sunseri, who threw 12 consecutive shutout innings after a four-run first.
Texas Tech then had to win another game that night, and then come back Sunday and beat LSU twice to advance. They got halfway there with a 5-4 win, but Sunseri’s fourth-inning, three-run homer broke open a close game and allowed LSU to make a fifth consecutive super regional showing.
Torina liked her own team’s toughness.
“Our motto for the year is ‘Fight All the Way’ and that is what we set out to do,” she said. “We did not have a target number of runs or wins, we just wanted to fight and I think our team did exactly that this weekend. When I think about the battles that we have gone through and the ups and downs of this season, it is really cool to think about the performances of the whole team especially of players sitting next to me (Shelbi Sunseri, Amanda Sanchez, Maribeth Gorsuch).”
Gorsuch (13-3) and Sanchez were emblematic of the fighting spirit. Gorsuch’s season-long control problems resurfaced, although she held Texas Tech to one run in 5 2/3 innings. Sunseri came in and finished the job for her fifth save despite relieving in the first game and throwing 179 pitches the day before.
“My team did a really great job all weekend and we had a gutsy performance (Saturday),” Gorsuch said. “After (Saturday), there was no way that we were going home this weekend as losers. We were going to go out as winners and that is what we did.”
Sanchez had gone hitless in 12 at-bats prior to the championship victory. She was moved from the No. 2 spot in the order to No. 6 and responded with a solo home run to tie the game in the second inning. Her relief was visible as she pumped her fists rounding the bases.
“I went up there and I just wanted to hit the ball hard,” said Sanchez, whose average has fallen more than 100 points since topping out at .470. “I made sure to get a good pitch and I knew that my team had my back. The pressure is just in my own head.”