LSU earned a No. 10 national seed in the NCAA softball championships and will play host to a regional along with Texas Tech, Louisiana Tech and Monmouth at Tiger Park this weekend.
Top seeded LSU (40-16) will play No. 4 seed Monmouth (36-16) at 4:30 p.m. Friday in an opening-round game. No. 2 seed Texas Tech (39-14) will play No. 3 seed Louisiana Tech (44-14) at 2 p.m. to open the double-elimination regional.
It’s the 14th consecutive NCAA tournament berth and fifth straight regional host for LSU, which spent much of the season among the top eight teams in RPI rankings. The Tigers likely dropped out of contention for a top-eight national seed and a super regional host site after losing its final five games.
“We’re excited; always appreciate the favor of the committee when playing at home at Tiger Park," coach Beth Torina said. "I think our team had a great year and we’re very deserving of the spot they’re in.
“I thought our résumé was good. We have been there all year. But obviously we didn’t play well lately, so I think that was a big factor. When we saw the initial four, it was pretty easy to see it (top eight national seed) wasn’t going to be in the cards for us.”
If LSU can get through the regional field, it would advance to play the winner from the regional hosted by No. 7 national seed Minnesota, which includes Georgia as a No. 2 seed.
“We were hopeful of being a top-eight team,” said Amanda Sanchez, LSU's senior third baseman and leading hitter. “We’ll be fine. We’ve gone on the road, played in tough atmospheres and still come out on top.”
LSU was swept at home by SEC champion Alabama, which earned the No. 8 overall seed and will host a super regional if it wins its regional. LSU followed that up with a one-hit, shutout loss to No. 5 seed Florida at the SEC tournament. Torina said playing such a difficult schedule in one of the toughest conferences in the country is good preparation for the playoffs.
“The SEC prepares different and prepare you differently,” Torina said. “We played a tough schedule. I think our kids have had a great season. They will show up when it’s time to show up.
“It’s tough. You go through a gauntlet in the SEC. We have finals, there’s a million reasons. It’s a 56-game season. It’s going to go up and down. We’ve got to make sure we’re up on Friday night at 4:30.”
Monmouth earned the automatic tournament berth by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic tournament title last weekend. The Hawks are led by Kayla Rosado with a team-best .378 batting average. Lindsey Baron has 12 home runs and 28 RBIs. The Hawks' top pitcher is Alyssa Irons, who is tied for second in the nation in pitching victories with a 30-10 record and a 1.47 ERA.
Texas Tech finished fourth in the Big 12, and Louisiana Tech won the Conference USA tournament last weekend.
Oklahoma landed the No. 1 national seed for the second straight year, followed by UCLA, Washington and reigning national champion Florida State.
UL received a No. 2 regional seed and landed in the Oxford (Miss.) regional. The Ragin' Cajuns (50-4) will face Southeast Missouri State at 3:30 p.m. Friday, with Ole Miss, the national No. 11 seed, facing Chattanooga at 6 p.m.