– Playing only to earn the right to force a winner-take-all game seven of the 2014 NCAA Tucson Regional, the LSU softball team scored five runs on eight hits and starting pitcher Baylee Corbello held the powerful Arizona offense to just one run on three hits to defeat the Wildcats 5-1 Sunday afternoon at Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers (38-23) scored in four straight innings from the third to the sixth and held off multiple Arizona (43-14) rallies throughout the game to hold on for the victory and force the "if" game later in the afternoon in Tucson.
"A lot of credit to Arizona and their team throughout this weekend, and credit to my guys for battling through everything they had to this weekend," head coach Beth Torina said. "We've done some unbelievable things this year, and I know the future is bright with this group."
Bianka Bell went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored and started the scoring for LSU with her 14th home run of the season in the bottom of the third as the Tigers never looked back from there. Bailey Landry continued to have an outstanding regional going 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Sahvanna Jaquish extended her program single-season record home run total to 16 as she went 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, while A.J. Andrews went 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored and 38th stolen base of the season. Allison Falcon and Constance Quinn had the other two hits for LSU in the game.
Corbello improved to 19-9 on the season after striking out four and walking nine, but the Tiger defense had her back and held the Wildcats down for much of the game on 138 total pitches.
"To throw a freshman in a spot like we did today is something we haven't needed from her this season, but she stepped up and came through for us to help get us this far," Torina said. "She threw maybe 500 pitches this weekend alone, and she went out there and battled and gave us everything she had."
After nearly completing the comeback against the same pitcher yesterday, LSU got to Arizona starter Estella Pinon who fell to 19-8 after allowing all five runs on eight hits with seven walks and two strikeouts.
Arizona earned a walk to open the game, as a sacrifice bunt pushed the runner to second for the first out. After a leaping grab by Jaquish in foul territory for the second, a wild pitch advanced the runner to third to put some pressure on the Tigers. Another walk put runners at the corners for the Wildcats, but an outstanding throw from short on a grounder to Bell kept the run from crossing to keep the game scoreless.
Andrews earned the game's first hit with a sharp single off of the glove of the shortstop to take first. Landry did enough to put down a bunt single to take first, but Andrews tried to catch the Arizona defense sleeping and motored through second and tried to make her way to third but was thrown out. After a foul out, Bell was walked to put two on for LSU, but a grounder to short ended the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the third inning, Bell took a first-pitch ball and wouldn't need much more than that as she pounced on the next and sent it to the bleachers in left for the third time on the weekend to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
After an out on a bunt attempt, Falcon hit a looping single down the left field line to reach first. Quinn followed up with a single up the middle to put two on for LSU, as Alayna Falcon came on to pinch hit and drew a walk to load the bases, with Blades coming back in to run at first after the play. With the defense playing tight for Andrews, she hit a slow chopper to first for the out, but allowed Allison Falcon to score to make it 2-0 Tigers.
Back-to-back walks put two on for the Wildcats in the top of the fifth inning right after the Tigers had gone up two, but an fly ball out to Andrews in center was the first out of the frame. A highlight-reel play was the inning-ending one as well as a soft liner that went off of Wray's glove at third found its way to Bell who threw out the lead runner at second to get LSU out of the jam with the lead intact.
Looking for an insurance run, LSU got it in the form of a towering-high shot from Jaquish that sailed and sailed until it eventually went over the fence for the solo home run, her third of the regional as well, to give LSU a 3-0 lead after five complete innings.
With two outs after a grounder and a strikeout, a walk and two infield singles loaded the bases for the Wildcats, as a wild pitch brought in one run for Arizona and advanced the other two runners to the next base. Another walk juiced the bases, but fortunately a grounder to Bell at short ended the inning to close the door on Arizona to hold on to a 3-1 lead.
After back-to-back strikeouts, Andrews got hit on the hand to take first for LSU. After stealing second, Landry drilled one down the left field line as Andrews rounded third and beat the tag home to score to make it 4-1 LSU, with Landry moving to second on the throw to the plate. Simone Heyward came in to pinch run as Jaquish earned a walk to put two back on for the Tigers, and on the next play Bell went deep into the count and beat out an infield single as Heyward came in to score from second with Jaquish moving to second to make it a 5-1 ballgame.
Tucson Regional Final (Game 7): Arizona 13, LSU 5 (5 Innings)
With the deck stacked firmly against them, and needing to win two games to continue its season, the LSU softball team put it all on the line in the second game of Championship Sunday, but the home standing Arizona Wildcats scored multiple runs in every inning, including scoring four in the bottom of the fourth to defeat the Tigers 11-5 in five innings Sunday evening in Tucson.
After holding on and taking the first game to send it to the seventh game of this regional, LSU (38-24) saw the Wildcats (44-14) go up five after two innings before getting a two run and solo home run in the third, but the team would only get two more runs after that to have a bit of life as the Wildcats scored two more in the third and four in the fourth, with a two-run home run ending the game in the bottom of the fifth.
"We knew they were an offense capable of scoring a lot of runs at any point in time, and that's what makes them so tough to pitch to," head coach Beth Torina said. "We left some pitches over the plate that they took advantage of so you have to credit them for swinging the bats as well as they did today."
The Tigers were held to just six hits in the game, led by Sahvanna Jaquish who hit her 17th home run of the season to go 1-for-2 with two RBI and a runs scored, while Tammy Wray hit her sixth home run of the year and went 1-for-2 with an RBI and run scored. Sandra Simmons hit her 11th double of the season and drove in two in going 1-for-1 with a walk.
"When you look at the young hitters we have on this team in Sahvanna, Bailey and the rest, and what this group has been able to do offensively this season, it makes you excited to see what the future will hold for them," Torina said.
Kelsee Selman, who helped keep the season alive with a win on Saturday was tagged with the loss on Sunday after allowing three runs on four hits in just 0.2 innings of work to fall to 6-3 on the season. Baylee Corbello, who pitched close to 500 pitches in the weekend as a whole came in an fought valiantly, pitching the final 3.1 innings and gave up 10 runs on 10 hits with seven walks and two strikeouts in relief.
Arizona showed the offense that got it to this point in the year, exploding for 13 runs on 14 hits, as Mo Mercado went 4-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored, while Hallie Wilson went 3-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored. Starting pitcher Shelby Babcock pitched all five innings allowing all five runs on six hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
After LSU earned the game's first hit in the top of the first, Arizona did one better in their half of the inning as Wilson came back and launched one over the fence in left center for the first run of the game to put the Wildcats up 1-0. They scored another after a single, walk and single down the left field line to make it 2-0. It went to a three-score game after another single in the infield allowed another runner to score.
In the top of the second, Bell opened with a single up the middle, with Wray earning a walk to put two on for the Tigers. Simmons sacrificed the two into scoring position with a bunt, but a looking strikeout put two outs on the board. Quinn got hit to load the bases for the Tigers, but a liner to short ended the threat for LSU in the frame.
A bunt single in the opening at-bat caught LSU off guard to open the bottom of the second, with a walk putting two on for the Wildcats. However, LSU turned a 6-4-3 double play to put two outs on the board, but with a runner at third, another walk put runners at the corners and it proved costly as a double down the left field line scored one and an infield single scoring another to make it 5-0 Arizona after two innings.
After a ground out for the first of the third inning, Landry singled through the middle of the infield to reach first. After fouling off pitch after pitch, for the second time on the day Jaquish hit a towering shot that carried far enough to clear the fence for the two run shot to make it 5-2. After a grounder to short for the second out, Wray came through and drilled one down the left field line for the solo bomb to make it 5-3.
After cutting the deficit to just two runs, the Tigers got the first two outs with a foul out and a strikeout and was looking to get out of the inning and continue to rally, but that idea came to a screeching halt after a walk put one on for the Wildcats and was followed by a two-run home run from Kelsey Rodriguez to make it a 7-3 game.
Arizona came back and got four runs on three hits to take an 11-3 lead over LSU in the bottom of the fourth inning.
After a ground ball out, Jaquish drew a walk with Alex Boulet coming in to pinch run for LSU to keep the game going. Bell followed up with a walk of her own to put two on for the Tigers, with a swinging strikeout putting LSU's season on the brink. Down to her and the team's final strike, Simmons fired a double to dead center to drive in both to make it 11-5 and stave off elimination for at least a little while longer.
A walk to the opening batter opened the bottom half of the fifth inning, with a pinch runner coming on at first, but the game ended in the next at-bat as Mercado ended the game with a two-run shot to make it 13-5.