LSU takes Regional opener against Louisville in slugfest, 13-9

From LSU Sports

TUCSON, Ariz. – Coming into the opening game of the 2014 NCAA Tucson Regional, the No. 23 LSU softball team was one of four squads that had a potent offense that it wanted to put on display in front of a national television audience. The Tigers ended the day scoring a program tournament record 13 runs on 13 hits to overpower and pull away from the Louisville Cardinals 13-9 Friday evening at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Arizona.

With the win, LSU (36-21) now moves on to the winner's bracket game on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against the winner of Boston University and Arizona. The winner of that game will advance to the regional championship game on Sunday afternoon.

After watching a six-run lead evaporate after scoring seven of the first eight runs of the game, the Tigers weathered the storm and scored six of the last eight to hold on for the win to move to 15-1 in regional openers.

"Give a lot of credit to our offense for staying hot throughout and never taking an at-bat off," head coach Beth Torina said. "This team has faced this kind of adversity all year, but we were able to get the timely hit when we needed it most."

The 13 runs the Tigers scored on Friday in Tucson are the most in the team's illustrious tournament history, overtaking the previous record of 12 scored against Southern on May 20, 1999 in Baton Rouge. The combined 22 runs by both teams is the two-team record in team history, falling three hits shy of tying the team record for most in a tournament game which is 16 set back in 2006. Of those double-digit hits for LSU in the game, eight were for extra bases as LSU pounded out five doubles and three home runs as a team on the day, with nine different Tigers lending a hand with at least one hit.

The team was paced by the senior leadership of Allison Falcon who went 4-for-4 with three doubles, two RBI and three runs scored, followed by fellow senor Tammy Wray who went 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI. Falcon becomes just the third player in team history to earn four hits in a tournament game, the first since Leslie Klein in 2004, while being the first player since Tessa Lynam in 2003 against Jackson State to have three doubles. Wray is the first player since Sandra Simmons against Hofstra to hit two doubles in a single game this season.

"I just have to give a lot of credit to our coaching staff for having us really prepared for what we were able to do today," Falcon said. "We saw every pitcher they threw and the coaches told us this was something that could happen. They were the ones that helped us succeed out there."

While the seniors led the pack the stadium crowd witnessed the bright future of the team in the very first inning as the team hit all three of its home runs during that frame including freshman Sahvanna Jaquish who tied the single-season home run mark with her 14th of the season as she went 1-for-1 with an RBI and run scored and three walks. Bianka Bell hit her 12th of the season and continues her climb up the career charts with her 24th long ball at LSU in a 1-for-4 effort with an RBI and two runs scored, while A.J. Andrews hit her second of the year in hitting the tenth leadoff home run for the team this season in a 1-for-4 night with an RBI and two runs scored.

Kellsi Kloss went 1-for-3 with two runs scored, while Bailey Landry went 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, with Alayna Falcon rounding out the hit parade earning an RBI single in her only at-bat of the game.

Baylee Corbello became the fifth freshman to earn a start in an NCAA Regional for LSU, earning the complete-game win to improve to 18-8 on the season after allowing nine runs, six earned, on 11 hits with four strikeouts to just two walks.

The Cardinals (36-22) proved to be the team the Tigers expected coming into the game, getting multiple-hit games from Katie Keller, Kayla Soles and Hannah Kiyohara, as each produced two hits, with Kiyohara driving in three for Louisville. After earning the start, Maryssa Becker bookended time in the circle, closing the game out after getting tattooed in the first to finish pitching 1.2 innings and allowing four runs on five hits with three strikeouts. Caralisa Connell took the loss after giving up four runs on three hits with two walks to fall to 10-6.

Hoping to set the tone quickly, Andrews took a 2-1 count and roped one in the dry Arizona air that carried far enough to clear the fence in left center to give the Tigers an early 1-0 lead. After a swinging strikeout, Jaquish took three pitches to fall to 1-2 with one strike left, but the freshman didn't wait long as she blasted one deep over the fence in left center to make it 2-0 LSU with only one out and prompting a pitching change.

The multiple defensive changes Louisville made in the inning did little good for the designated visitors, as Bell stepped up to the plate and busted out a huge swing that sent the ball on a line to the batter's eye in dead center for the third solo shot of the inning to give the team a 3-0 lead for the final Tiger run of the frame. It was the fifth instance of back-to-back home runs this season for the team, the 23rd time in program history, as the three home runs in the same inning is the first since 2011 and fourth time in LSU history.

Louisville broke through and got a string of hits to open the top of the third, as a double down the right field line put one on, with the runner tagging to third on a fly ball out to right, with a short single to left center bringing in one to make it 3-1 LSU midway through three. After a popup to short, a long at-bat resulted in a walk to put two on for the Cardinals, but a grounder to Bell with a flip to Falcon forced out the runner at second to end the inning.

With one out on the board in the bottom half of the inning, Jaquish drew a walk to take first, but was put out on the next play on a fielder's choice to give the Tigers two outs. A walk to Kloss proved to be a costly as Simmons came through and connected on a single to right to score Bell from second to make it 4-1 with Kloss moving to third and Simmons to second on the throw in. Nearly going to the identical spot she did in an earlier inning, Falcon ripped another double to straightaway center to score both to make it 6-1 LSU.

Wray got hit on the leg by a pitch to put two back on for the Tigers, as Landry hit a high-chopping single right up the middle of the infield to score Falcon to make it 7-1 LSU for the final run of the inning.

The scoring continued in the top of the fourth as Louisville got two runs on three hits, getting two doubles in the frame and a sacrifice fly to cut the LSU lead to 7-3, but the team would get out of the frame on Corbello's third strikeout of the game. The Cardinals scored for the third consecutive inning and got four runs thanks to four hits and two errors to tie the game at 7-7 in the top of the fifth.

A single up the middle by Kloss led off the bottom of the fifth inning after Louisville rallied in the top half of the inning, with a sacrifice bunt by Simmons advancing the Tiger catcher to second base. A single by Falcon put runners at the corners for the Tigers, as Wray came through big with a scorching double to left center to score Kloss to make it 8-7 LSU.

A walk to Landry loaded the bases for LSU, as a tough play by the Louisville second baseman on a fielder's choice by Andrews ended with Wray getting thrown out at the plate to keep the run from crossing. Things got weird in a hurry as Louisville reverted back to its original lineup and its third pitching change in going back to Becker after Landry walked and an illegal pitch was called allowing Allison Falcon to score to make it 9-7. Alayna Falcon came on for the pinch hit situation, connecting on a single to right driving in Landry with Andrews moving to third to make it 10-7.

Blades came back on to run at first, and Jaquish was the recipient of another walk to put two on, but things quickly went back in LSU's favor as Bell hit a low shot to third base with the resulting throw also going two low resulting in Bell being called safe and Andrews and Blades scoring to make it 12-7, with a strikeout ending the inning.

After a two-run homerun in the top half of the sixth by Louisville, the Tigers retaliated in the bottom of the inning with Allison Falcon's third double of the game to right center with one out on the board. Wray followed up with the fifth double of the game to score the LSU second baseman in the final score of the game to make it 13-7 Tigers who held on for the win in the end.

LSU now moves on to the winner's bracket game on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against the winner of Boston University and Arizona.