After falling in the winner's game earlier today, the No. 8 LSU softball team had its season on the line in the second elimination game of the day at Tiger Park Saturday, and had to go to extras before pulling out a thrilling 3-2 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers Saturday night in 10 innings.
After Nebraska (35-23) eliminated Texas Southern in the second game of the day, it set up a rematch between the two teams from earlier this season that LSU (46-12) won easily back in February. Instead of a repeat, the two sides combined for just a pair of runs in some dominating pitching performances before the Tigers earned the hits it needed to pull ahead and weather the storm late to keep their season alive in the final game of the day.
"I think that is why they call us the Fighting Tigers," head coach Beth Torina said. "We had a great performance on the mound (from Allie Walljasper). Kellsi Kloss caught a great game for us, and we were finally able to get some big hits at important times because of the performance on the mound. I think that led the way for us to get a win today. Hopefully, we can roll that into tomorrow and just continue to have good pitching but a little more confidence at the plate."
In her longest outing of the season, Walljasper (14-5) pitched 9.1 innings and allowed just two runs on eight hits with three strikeouts and one walk in the contest, earning the victory as Carley Hoover (3) came on in the bottom of the 10th with two runners on to shut the door and capture her third save of the year in the process.
"I had great defense behind me the whole time. I couldn't have done it without all of my teammates," Walljasper said. "We are called the power of one for a reason. I couldn't have done it without the 20 other girls behind me. It was very exciting to be around them."
The Tigers were outhitting the Cornhuskers late before the last few hits by NU late pushed the other side ahead 8-7, but LSU got the hits it needed at the right time as Sandra Simmons led the team on the night going 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Simmons drove in the first run for the team, but it was Kellsi Kloss and Sahvanna Jaquish driving in the winning ones in the 10th, both on singles, to put the team ahead for good.
"I'm fortunate enough to be the one who hit the go-ahead run. But, I could not have done it without any of my teammates," Kloss said. "Everyone set the table for me. I can't take any credit at all. Sahvanna (Jaquish) drove in the third run for us, and that was huge."
Nebraska's Emily Lockman (18-14) suffered the loss after pitching all 10 innings for the Cornhuskers, allowing three runs, two earned, on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts. The NU defense booted three balls on the afternoon accounting for one of the runs on a wild play early, as the Nebraska hitters were held in check for much of the game. Alicia Armstrong and Cassie McClure had two hits each, accounting for half of the team's hits in the contest.
After a scoreless three innings, an error at second base allowed Bianka Bell to reach first to get an LSU runner on base. A weak fly to short and an infield grounder moved her to second but with two outs looked as if she would have been stranded until a Simmons single down the left field line brought her in before the throw to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
The lead didn't last very long for the team as in the bottom half of the fourth, back-to-back singles put runners at the corners for Nebraska, with a sacrifice fly bringing in the tying run from third to knot the game at 1-1.
A walk to Bailey Landry after an out in the 10th put the go-ahead run on base for LSU in the frame, as a failed force out on a Bell fielder's choice put two on for LSU at that point. With a 1-1 count, Kloss singled to right scoring Landry to give the Tigers the lead back at 2-1. After a put out on a failed steal attempt at third, Jaquish ripped a single to left, scoring Kloss to make it 3-1 with LSU three outs away from closing it out.
Nebraska refused to quit, showing the fight to try and keep their season alive in the bottom of the 10th, as consecutive singles put two on for the Huskers. A fielder's choice forced out a runner at second to put runners at corners, before another single cut the lead to just one. Hoover came on in relief with the pressure fully on but held firm getting the next two to pop up and fly out to center to end the game and capture the win.
LSU will now advance to the Regional Final, where they will take on Arizona State at 12 p.m. tomorrow at Tiger Park. If the Tigers win the first game, it will force a winner-take-all final game 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first game.