OKLAHOMA CITY — LSU was too much for Auburn on the opening day of the Women’s College World Series.
It had too much power, too much of Carley Hoover’s pitching and too much defense in a wire-to-wire 6-1 victory Thursday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“The game was well pitched and well played, but I thought the best thing about it was our team’s fight,” said Beth Torina, who got her 300th victory as a college head coach at LSU and Florida International. “I thought our team showed a lot of guts and a lot of fight.”
LSU (51-12) will play top-seeded and defending national champion Florida (56-6), which defeated Tennessee 7-2 in Thursday’s opener, at 6 p.m. Friday. Auburn (54-10) will play Tennessee (47-16) in an elimination game at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Bianka Bell and Kellsi Kloss homered, Hoover continued her postseason dominance with a six-hitter and the LSU defense outperformed the Auburn defense.
LSU’s first five runs all scored during rallies that began with two out.
“The difference is that with two outs they got the key hits,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said.
The six runs were the most LSU has scored in 13 WCWS games and the 10 hits tied the most. In the previous 12 WCWS games, the Tigers had hit a total of two home runs.
LSU, which lost two of three against Auburn at Tiger Park four weeks ago, had control of this game almost immediately.
Bell, who was named an All-American on Wednesday, gave LSU a 1-0 lead when she drove a 2-1 pitch from Marcy Harper (12-5) over the fence in left field in the top of the first.
“With two outs I was just trying to find my way on and hope someone could drive me in,” Bell said. “I guess I just got all of the ball and it went out.”
The Tigers broke the game open with two outs in the third. Bailey Landry singled to center and Bell walked on four pitches. Sahvanna Jaquish followed with a two-run double to right-center and Kloss homered off the foul pole in left to make it 5-0 and finish Harper.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything too big,” Kloss said. “I was just trying to make an adjustment from my last at-bat and try and get on top of the ball I put a good swing on it, and I stayed inside it enough to hit the pole. I knew it had the distance to go out, but I was kind of willing it to go fair.”
Harper had handcuffed the Tigers in the opener of the regular-season series, but they fared better in the series finale and again Thursday.
Hoover held Auburn scoreless until the fifth when Morgan Estell led off with a double, advanced on Jade Rhodes’ bunt and scored on Jenna Abbott’s sacrifice fly.
LSU added a run in the sixth when Constance Quinn singled, moved to second when Emily Griggs beat out a bunt for her third straight hit, and scored when reliever Rachael Walters threw the ball away for a two-base error after fielding A.J. Andrews’ grounder.
Hoover (18-5) has four wins and two saves during LSU’s six-game win streak in the NCAA tournament.
“I think the bigger the game, the better she pitches,” Torina said. “From what we know about her this year, she wants the ball in these situations and she truly thrives in them.”
Andrews’ spectacular diving catch of Branndi Melero’s sinking line drive leading off the fourth was the signature play in LSU’s defensive effort. The lone miscue came when Jaquish mishandled Haley Fagan’s grounder to third leading off the bottom of the seventh.
But after Estell beat out a bunt, Jaquish snared Rhodes’ sharp grounder, stepped on third and threw to first for a double play. Hoover finished it with her fifth strikeout.
“I personally didn’t feel like I had (my best stuff),” Hoover said. “I was missing a lot of the middle, but our defense was so strong. We made amazing plays.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.