Brittany Mack put together a masterful pitching performance and the LSU softball team manufactured two runs in the fourth inning en route to a 2-1 victory over No. 8 national seed Texas A&M Sunday to claim the 2012 NCAA College Station Regional championship.
In the process, LSU (37-22) punched its first ticket to the NCAA Super Regional round since the 2007 season. The Tigers will travel to future SEC rival and No. 9 national seed Missouri. Games dates and times will be announced by the NCAA after the completion of Sunday's NCAA Regional contests.
Mack limited the potent A&M offense (41-18) to one run on three hits. In its other two NCAA College Station Regional contests, the Aggies knocked 10 home runs along with an average of nine runs and 10 hits per game.
"We couldn't be more excited about the game today and going to the super regionals," head coach Beth Torina said. "Our team played LSU softball by pitching well, playing solid defense and capitalizing on our timely runs sparked by Kailey McCasland's sacrifice fly. Texas A&M is a great team. We watched them have huge offensive numbers in the other two games. A lot of credit goes to them, and we appreciate them hosting us this weekend. It's a really excited day for our program."
Mack registered seven strikeouts versus three walks and improved to 15-11 for the season. The senior right-hander navigated her way through six scoreless innings before A&M rallied for a run during the seventh inning.
Amber Garza drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second base on pinch hitter Lindsey Sisk's ground out to third baseman Tammy Wray. She scooted over to third base on a wild pitch. Down to its final strike, Natalie Villarreal laced a RBI single through the middle to draw Texas A&M back to within 2-1.
Mack regrouped and got Kelsea Orsak to ground out five pitches later to secure the final out. The chopped two-hopper was fielded by second baseman Allison Falcon, who flipped the ball over to Heidi Pizer to send the Tigers into a regional championship dog pile right in-front of the pitcher's circle.
"I knew it was a huge deal for Brittany to avenge her loss from last season to Texas A&M," Torina said. "I was 100 percent confident and I didn't have a doubt about the type of performance I was going to get from her."
"I kept focusing on this pitch, this batter," Mack said. "I might have thrown more change-ups last year than I did this year. We definitely had a plan to throw more hard stuff to keep them off balance. We got them with a lot of drops and screws today."
Offensively, LSU pounded out six hits sparked by Ashley Applegate's 2-for-3 effort with a run scored. The Tigers scored both of their runs during a drama-filled fourth inning.
With one out, Falcon reached on a fielding error by Garza at third base. In between an ejection of assistant coach Howard Dobson, Applegate ripped a single up the middle followed by a Tammy Wray walk to load the bases.
Torina turned to her bench and pinch hitter Kailey McCasland provided the game's first run with sacrifice fly into the left centerfield gap to allow Falcon to sprint home.
"I have confidence in Kailey McCasland," Falcon said. "I knew she would step up and do her job. All I was looking for was anything deep enough that I could tag on. I know I am not the fastest, but I can score on anything that is deep enough. Kailey came through huge for us."
Dylan Supak legged out an infield single on deep ground ball in the 5-6 hole. A throwing error by A&M shortstop Brittany Walker enabled Applegate to cross the plate and push the LSU advantage to 2-0.
"Our kids scratched and clawed for these three regional wins," Torina said. "That's what we've done all season long. We know teams are going to have a hard time scoring runs against us with our pitching staff. We're going to find a way to score runs however we can."