by: Clyde Verdin, LSU
In the matchup that everyone was expecting on Saturday between No. 23 LSU and No. 11 national seed Arizona, the two teams combined for six home runs as LSU battled back from a four-run deficit to tie and nearly did so again in the top of the seventh, but a big five-run inning by the Wildcats in the bottom of the fifth would be too much to overcome as the Tiger rally fell short in a 9-8 loss at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.
With the loss, LSU will now play in the final elimination game of the day later Saturday night against the winner of Boston University and Louisville.
Against the powerful offense of the Wildcats (43-13), the Tigers (36-23) were able to keep pace after seeing Arizona score four only to fight back to tie the game. However, Arizona was finally able to break through in a big way to plate five in the fifth, but LSU never quit and put together a three run rally in the top of the seventh, but the game ended with a double play to allow Arizona to escape in the end.
Bailey Landry was one of only two Tigers to earn multiple hits on the day, earning two of LSU's eight hits on the afternoon, and one of the team's three home runs, after going 2-for-3 with a double, home run, RBI and two runs scored. Sandra Simmons was the other as she went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Bianka Bell's only hit of the day was the biggest of the moment early as she tied the game at four with a three-run blast, her 13th of the season which is now her career best for most in a season. Tammy Wray hit her fourth home run of the season in a 1-for-2 day with a RBI and run scored, as A.J. Andrews and Sahvanna Jaquish had one each. Constance Quinn didn't record a hit, but her two-RBI grounder in the seventh helped continue the Tiger rally in the process.
As a team the Tigers now have 58 home runs which are tied for the second most in team history with the 2007 squad, just two behind the all-time team record, while the group was walked four times and puts the team over the 222 threshold for most walks in a single-season.
After earning the win yesterday, Baylee Corbello took the loss on Saturday after allowing nine runs on 10 hits with seven walks and three strikeouts to fall to 18-9 on the season.
Seven different Wildcat batters earned a hit on the day, led by Hallie Wilson who went 3-for-4 with six RBI with two home runs, followed by Kelsey Rodriguez who went 2-for-2 with a home run. Wildcat starting pitcher Estella Pinon improved to 18-7 in the complete-game effort, although she nearly blew the win in the end allowing eight runs on eight hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
The Wildcats wasted little time as a single to short left field put one on for Arizona, with a sacrifice bunt advancing the runner to second for the first out. A fly ball out to Landry in left was the second, as a hit batter put two on for the home side. With things getting tight, Corbello went deep into the count but got the final batter to strike out swinging to end the frame.
After mowing through the first two batters in the bottom of the second, things began to turn quickly for the Wildcats as a single to center put one on for Arizona. A ball that took a weird bounce stayed fair for an infield single to put two on, with one of the big blows coming in the next at-bat as Wilson drilled one that looked to leave the yard but somehow stayed in the park and ricocheted off of Andrews and into the left field foul territory for the inside-the-park three-run home run to go up 3-0. In the very next swing of the game, this by Rodriguez, there was no doubt as the ball soared over the fence for the solo shot to make it a four-run game.
After watching life come to the pro-Arizona crowd, LSU came back in the top of the third and took the third pitch of her at-bat and clocked it on a rope over the fence in left for the solo shot to make it 4-1. Landry followed up with a scorching double down the left field line to take second. After a fly out, a grounder by Jacee Blades advanced Landry to third for the second out, a walk to Jaquish put runners at the corners. On the very first pitch, Bell jumped and silenced the crowd with an absolute blast to the bleachers in left to tie the game and net the equalizer.
After each team flirted with multiple runners on base, only to come up fruitless, Arizona came into the bottom of the fifth inning and with two outs started a big rally that resulted in five runs being scored and was powered by a three-run home run by Wilson to give the Wildcats a 9-4 lead over LSU.
LSU cut the lead back to four runs in the top of the sixth inning, as with two outs Landry smacked her second home run of the season on a solo shot to make it 9-5. After a walk to Blades to open the seventh, Jaquish singled to short and the resulting throw sailed high allowing Blades to move to third to put runners at the corners for the Tigers.