As No. 11 Washington and No. 13 LSU were getting ready to play this weekend, Tigers coach Beth Torina said the softball series felt like a super regional.
It felt that way all weekend as the teams split a doubleheader Saturday and battled into extra innings in the decisive finale Sunday afternoon at Tiger Park.
The Tigers outlasted the Huskies 5-4 on Allie Walljasper’s home run in the ninth inning after they had erased a three-run deficit in the sixth and a one-run deficit in the seventh.
“It felt like we were on our way to the World Series after winning that game,” Torina said. “It was just so intense. It just had that kind of postseason atmosphere.”
LSU appears ready for the postseason after winning for the 12th time in 13 games to conclude the regular season with a 42-14 record. It’s seeded seventh in the Southeastern Conference tournament and will face 10th-seeded Texas A&M in a first-round game at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Starkville, Miss. The Huskies are 33-14.
Walljasper’s home run came five innings after she was hit by a pitch on her right hand. She left the game briefly and had her wrist taped before returning to hit a long drive over the left-field wall against Madi Schreyer (10-4).
“When it came off the bat I knew it was gone,” said Walljasper, who added that it was the first walk-off homer of her life.
It was just her second homer of the season, though the other was about as memorable. That was a two-run pinch hit that ignited a two-out, four-run rally in the seventh inning that produced a 5-4 victory at Georgia on April 1.
“I had no doubt in my mind that she was going to go up there and do something big,” said freshman right-hander Sydney Smith, who was big all weekend. After throwing a three-hit shutout in the first game Saturday, she relieved Carley Hoover with one out in the third and allowed just Kimberlee Souza’s tiebreaking solo homer in the seventh, though Washington did manage eight hits off her.
“That was a good offense, and I knew that they were going to come in and make adjustments and know what was coming,” Smith said, “so I just had to do better and the defense had to be better, and it was.”
Washington grabbed a 3-0 lead in the third and held it as LSU stranded two runners in the third and left the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth.
“We were getting hits, but we weren’t getting that timely hit,” Walljasper said. “We really needed someone to step up to the plate and come through.”
Bailey Landry did just that, driving a three-run homer over the wall in right-center to tie the score in the sixth.
“When it came off the bat it felt pretty great, but it stayed kind of low,” Landry said. “Then it rose.”
The tie didn’t last long thanks to Souza, and the Tigers were down to their final out before Constance Quinn lined a hit to right and hustled into second ahead of the throw.
“(Quinn) had seen them throwing to a cut-off quite a bit so she knew she had that in her back pocket,” Torina said. “That was just an all-heart play.”
That made a huge difference when Amber Serrett followed with a sharp single to left. Torina sent Quinn and she scored easily when Dani Braun misplayed the ball for an error and the game went to extra innings.
LSU got Sandra Simmons to third with two outs in the eighth before Sahvanna Jaquish lined what appeared to be a walk-off single, but Krystal Aubert charged the ball and fired a strike that beat Jaquish to the bag.
“The kid made a great play,” Torina said.
That just meant Smith needed to keep the game tied for one more inning. She did just that, finishing the weekend with one run allowed in 13.2 innings against the ninth-best hitting team in the country, which hadn’t been shut out before facing her Saturday.
“Sydney Smith was just phenomenal,” Torina said. “I can’t say enough good things about everything she did. She had such a special weekend and such a special end to the (regular) season.”