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Tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning, LSU junior infielder Bianka Bell's RBI single to score Sydney Bourg helped lift the eighth-ranked Tigers to a walk-off, 4-3 win over No 23 Arizona State in the winner-take-all game of the 2015 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional to send the team to the Super Regional round for the first time since 2012.
After forcing the deciding seventh game of the regional with a 5-0 win earlier in the day, the Tigers took an early lead, only to need to rally in the final frame before sealing the game late with the ripped shot by Bell in the ninth to end the game and send the Tigers (48-12) on to the next round of play. It's the 18th time since 2005 that a team has won both games to advance out of regional play.
"I could go down the entire lineup and in the dugout and make a list of all the things that I'm proud of. We had awesome pitching performances all weekend. We had great clutch hitting. Bailey Landry was phenomenal. Bianka (Bell) gets a big hit. There's so many kids that if I sat up here and named all the good things, I would be up here for an hour," head coach Beth Torina said. "Ultimately, I'm so proud of the team. I'm proud of their fight. I feel like a sleeping giant has been awoken. Hopefully, we can continue to roll this into the next weekend, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a great postseason run."
Bell, who went hitless in the first game and shook off three tough at bats in this one, came through when LSU needed her most as she finished the day going 2-for-5 with an RBI. She was one of five people to earn multiple hits in the game, led by A.J. Andrews who went 3-for-4 with a stolen base, followed by Bailey Landry who kept the game alive with her only RBI in the bottom of the seventh to go 2-for-4 with a double and a triple. Sandra Simmons went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Emily Griggs went 2-for4 with a run scored.
"I thought we did really well. We fought until the very end and kept us in the game," Bell said. "Allie (Wallijasper) kept us in the game starting off and did a phenomenal job keeping us in the game. Then, Carley (Hoover) coming in and shutting them down. We had terrific defense, hitters coming in clutch and it was just a terrific showing for us this weekend."
On her 19th birthday, freshman Allie Walljasper earned the start and kept LSU in the hunt against Arizona State (36-22), pitching 6.1 innings and allowing three runs, one earned, on eight hits with three strikeouts to two walks. In the end, Carley Hoover (16-5) earned the win by pitching the final 2.2 and allowing no runs and no hits with a strikeout in relief, her second of the day.
"I really thought what we did today was we competed, and that's what this program is about," Hoover said. "With our best and our worst, we are always competing. We are always trying to find a way to win, and that's what we did today. We competed."
Earning all four starts for the Sun Devils on the weekend, Breanna Macha (18-13) suffered the loss for the second time on Sunday, allowing all four runs, three earned, on 13 hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Macha threw over 300 total pitches over the weekend, as she pitched the entire final game for ASU on the day. Amber Freeman had two of Arizona State's eight hits, going 2-for-3 in the contest.
With an out already in the bottom of the first, Landry lifted one to the gap in right center, reaching the wall as she motored around for the stand-up triple. A grounder to second kept her at bay for the second out, as a walk to Sahvanna Jaquish put runners at the corners.
On the first pitch of her at-bat, Kellsi Kloss laced a single through the right side, scoring Landry to give LSU a 1-0 lead. While Simmons was at the plate, a throw down to second to try and nail Jaquish sailed high allowing her to move to third to put runners at the corners, which led to Simmons to smoke a single through the right side of the infield to score Jaquish and make it 2-0 Tigers.
After a scoreless second for both sides, in the very next inning Arizona State stormed back, as a leadoff double down the left field line set the tone, with the Sun Devils scoring two runs on three hits and an error to find new lie and knot the game at 2-2.
With no score from either side heading into the bottom of the fifth, Griggs opened up the inning with a single up the middle, as Andrews followed suit with a bunt single to first, as the resulting throw allowed the two to move to second and third on the error. A walk to Landry loaded the bases for LSU with a chance to strike, but a strikeout and a shallow fly double play ended the inning.
Heading into the final frame, an error put a runner on with one out, as a single through the right side put two on ending Walljasper's day. Hoover came on and threw a wild pitch putting runners at the corners. A ball hit to the dirt allowed the runner from third to score, giving ASU the lead back at 3-2 but putting out the runner at second as the inning ended on a grounder to third with the damage already done.
Down to their final three outs, Griggs opened the bottom of the seventh with a single through the right side, as a sacrifice bunt by Andrews advanced the freshman to second. Landry came through again with a double down the left field line to score Griggs and tie the game at 3-3.
After both teams went down in order in each of the next three half innings, LSU came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth and got a single from Bourg to open the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Griggs, Andrews singles do left center to put two on and up the pressure for ASU. A fielder's choice grounder that hit Andrews from the bat of Landry put her out due to interference, but keeping two back on for LSU.
With an 0-1 count, Bell roped one up the middle, giving Bourg just enough time to race around third and score, giving the Tigers the win and their first Super Regional at home in program history.
After the game, LSU's Andrews, Hoover, Landry and Walljasper were named to the 2015 NCAA Baton Rouge All-Regional Team, with Hoover earning the regional MVP honors.
LSU will now wait to see who they will face, taking on the winner of the 2015 NCAA Tucson Regional, beginning next weekend in Baton Rouge, with dates and times to be announced late Sunday.