HARRISONBURG, Va. — HARRISONBURG, Va. — When LSU softball coach Beth Torina filled out her lineup card for the win-or-go-home finale of the NCAA Harrisonburg super regional Saturday afternoon she wrote in the names of three freshmen.
Amber Serrett was taking her customary position at shortstop, Elyse Thornhill was making her second start of the day in left field, and Sydney Smith was making her super regional debut in the circle.
It showed a remarkable amount of confidence in freshmen, and it paid off for Torina and the Tigers as they followed a 2-0 victory with a 3-2 win at Veterans Memorial Park and a return trip to the Women’s College World Series.
Serrett went 1-for-3 and played her usual solid game at shortstop. Thornhill didn’t have a hit in the second game, but she had a single and a run in the opener. Smith got the win, allowing four hits and two runs (one earned) in four innings.
Torina bypassed sophomores Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper, who threw a five-hit shutout in the first game Saturday, in favor of Smith.
“I thought it was a card we had that JMU didn’t,” Torina said. “We had a third pitcher, and they didn’t. She has been really big down the stretch in some SEC games. She had been huge against Washington (three-hit shutout).
“She has been finishing some really big games for us and is throwing the ball well lately. I was really confident in the whole staff. I was definitely confident in her, and at the end of the day, I thought it was a card that we had to play.”
Thornhill has dual role
Thornhill’s presence in the lineup represented a slight change to the Tigers lineup by having the freshman from St. Joseph’s Academy play left field and bat.
In recent starts by Walljasper, Thornhill has played left field but not batted as Kellsi Kloss was the designated player and Walljasper batted. But Saturday’s first game was the first time in 11 games that Walljasper didn’t bat.
Super regional history
LSU is the 15th team since the super regional format began in 2005 to lose the first game and come back to win the next two and advance to the WCWS.
It was also the third time that LSU played in a super regional Game 3.
In 2006, the Tigers lost at Arizona and in 2012, coach Torina’s first team won at Missouri.
Sluggers do it again
Kloss’ home run in the fourth inning of Saturday’s first game was her 10th of the season, giving the Tigers their second consecutive season with three players with double-digit homers.
Bianka Bell and Sahvanna Jaquish each have 12 home runs. The same trio had double-digit homers last season, the first time that happened in school history.
Bell, Jaquish and Kloss rank 1-2-3 in LSU career home runs.
Another record crowd for JMU
The second day of the super regional brought a second record crowd.
The 2,331 fans who showed up for Friday’s opener was the largest crowd in the history of Veterans Memorial, which has a permanent capacity of 625 but features temporary seating for this event.
That record lasted less than 24 hours as 2,525 fans showed up for Saturday’s games.