LSU outfielder Taryn Antoine has been one of the Tigers' forgotten players, but she turned in a most memorable at-bat Saturday.
A starter last year who lost her job early this season, Antoine delivered the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 13th inning to lift LSU to a 5-4 victory over Texas Tech in the Baton Rouge regional at Tiger Park.
The victory puts LSU (42-16) in the driver’s seat, needing only one victory Sunday to move on to the super regional round. LSU plays at 3 p.m. against an opponent to be determined.
That opponent was late in coming since LSU and Texas Tech (40-15) played the near equivalent of two games, pushing the schedule back 2½ hours with a 4-hour, 20-minute contest.
LSU fell behind 4-0 in the first inning but rallied to tie with three in the fifth and one in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Shemiah Sanchez. The Tigers stranded 18 baserunners before finally breaking through in the 13th.
Singles by Amanda Doyle, Amber Serrett and Michaela Schlattman loaded the bases with one out and Antoine, who had 46 starts last year and 19 this season, lifted a fly ball to medium right center field. Texas Tech’s Karli Hamilton made a running catch and had a difficult throw home, which was off to the left as Doyle scored standing up.
“I just thinking about getting Amanda in,” said Antoine, a sophomore from Alexandria. “I looked up in the stands and thought, ‘Wow, they’re all here for us. I need to get this done for our team, the fans and the school.’
“I was just trying to swing as hard as I could to get it as far as I could to get Amanda in. To be able to have my name called and do what I did for my teammates, seeing them running up hugging me, everybody being so excited was the best part for me.”
While Antoine had her big moment, LSU pitcher Shelbi Sunseri was there all day. After the four-run first inning, she threw 12 scoreless innings, allowing only three baserunners in the final eight. Sunseri one point retired 14 in a row and 24 of 26 while throwing 179 pitches, 115 for strikes.
“Shelbi Sunseri has been an absolute animal,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “She’s one of the best players in college softball. I didn’t consider once taking her out of the game. I didn’t even need to ask how she was because she’s so strong. She wanted the ball at that moment.”
Sunseri allowed a one-out single to Heaven Burton in the 12th. Burton stole second and went to third on a wild pitch but Sunseri struck out Jessica Hartwell and got Trenity Edwards on a smash to third baseman Amanda Sanchez.
“Just bear down,” Sunseri said when asked what she was thinking after the first inning. “I knew my defense was going to have my back and our offense was going to come back and score runs. Take it one pitch at a time and let my defense work. Our whole defense was amazing.”
Sunseri walked the leadoff hitter and contributed a throwing error with the bases loaded to make it 2-0. She allowed run-scoring singles by Peyton Blythe and Zoe Jones before getting the final out.
LSU finally rallied when Serrett led off the fourth with a triple. A hit batter and fielder’s choice loaded the bases and Georgia Clark drew an RBI walk of Texas Tech starter Missy Zoch. Sunseri lifted a sacrifice play to Hamilton, whose throw to third was wild allowing a second run to score.
Texas Tech’s Erin Edmoundson was almost as good as Sunseri, repeatedly getting out of jams whiule throwing 176 pitches in 9⅔ innings.
“What are you going to do?” Texas Tech coach Adrian Gregory said. “We asked as much of our girls as we could and they put everything on the line, played their hearts out. It was who was going to get a run at the end. LSU played a great game. It could have gone any way at any time. I’m proud of our kids and how hard they played.”