Two weeks ago when the Division I softball selection committee unveiled its 64-team bracket, LSU third baseman Amanda Doyle’s radar immediately went off.
Doyle saw the positioning of LSU and Florida State and remarked to head coach Beth Torina that a potential meeting loomed in the Super Regional contingent on both teams handling their business in the regional round. It would be a third such matchup between the Tigers and Seminoles in four seasons with the NCAA having postponed last year’s postseason because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida State swept through its home regional to make its eighth consecutive Super Regional appearance. LSU had to do some additional work, rebounding from a shutout loss in Sunday’s first game with UL-Lafayette for an 8-5 victory to advance to its sixth consecutive Super Regional.
After having to make the 450-mile trek to Tallahassee in consecutive years that produced mixed results, the No. 7 Tigers (35-20) relish the chance to host the No. 10 Seminoles (42-10-1) at Tiger Park in the best-of-3 series that begins at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The game will be televised by ESPN and broadcast locally by 107.3-FM.
“I told the assistants we get what we always wanted, we’re home,” Torina said to her staff following Sunday’s clinching win. “We’re tired to going to Florida State every year. No offense to them. They earned the right to host. We were tired of the committee sending us to Florida State every year.
“It’s nice for them to have a chance to come our place. We’ve beaten them at their place, and they’ve beaten us at their place. There’s no guarantees because we’re at home we’re going to win this thing.”
The Super Regional continues with game two at 6 p.m. Friday with a third game, if needed, at 6 p.m. Saturday. Both of those games will be carried by ESPN2.
LSU earned its last trip to the Women’s College World Series in 2017, upsetting Florida State on its home field after the Seminoles won the first game. The Tigers rallied, though, to win the next game and make their fourth trip under Torina to Oklahoma City.
Florida State avenged that home loss a year later, turning the tables on LSU which won the opener, by defeating the Tigers (8-5 in 11 innings and 3-1) in a marathon doubleheader delayed by inclement weather. The Seminoles went on to capture the school’s third national championship that season and first in 36 years.
“They look very similar to how they were a couple of years ago,” Doyle said of FSU. “They’re solid all around. It’s definitely going to be good competition and a good three-game series. We’re just going to go out there and play our game and make sure we do what we’re supposed to do.
“It’s going to be hard. Super Regionals are always hard. It was hard back then and it’s going to be hard this weekend. It’s going to be a matter of who’s prepared more. We’ve definitely prepared this week and I think we’re ready to go.”
Florida State, which lost to Duke 4-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament’s semifinals, outscored its opposition 11-2 in sweeping through its own regional. The Seminoles, led by ace Kathryn Sandercock, tossed back-to-back shutouts of Central Florida to advance to the super regionals.
Sandercock, who has a career 45-3 record and is 23-2 this season with a 1.51 ERA and 103 strikeouts, had a no-hitter in Sunday’s championship through 5.2 innings before settling for a one-hit shutout with eight strikeouts.
The Seminoles’ pitching staff, which also includes redshirt senior Tennessee transfer Caylan Arnold (10-6, 1.60 ERA, 663 career strikeouts), boasts the nation’s No. 7 ERA (1.63) with a staff that’s combined for 18 shutouts.
“She throws with good velocity, not unlike something we’ve seen,” Torina said of Sandercock. “We’ve seen a lot of good velocity in the SEC. We’ve seen 70 (miles per hour) a couple of times this year and we know she can knock on that door and that will be a challenge. The challenge is the way they matchup with multiple pitchers that do different things.”
FSU, which has five starters remaining from its 2018 national title team, features three players that garnered first team All-ACC laurels led by Sandercock. Junior third baseman Sydney Sherrill (.305, 2 HRs, 28 RBIs, 13 stolen bases) – the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year and school’s career leader in doubles – is next along with redshirt freshman second baseman Devyn Flaherty (.299, 5 HRs, 22 RBIs, 18 stolen bases).
The Seminoles, who are batting .263, were tops in the ACC in stolen bases with 106 in 120 attempts.
LSU, which hits .272 as a team, experienced a surge in its offensive output last week with four players – Ciara Briggs, Georgia Clark, Aliyah Andrews and Shelbi Sunseri – all batting .400 or better. Doyle, Clark and Sunseri combined for five home runs and 17 RBIs and Andrews scored six runs.
Andrews remains LSU’s batting leader (.370, 27 stolen bases) followed by Briggs (.345, 4 HRs, 17 RBIs, 11 stolen bases), Taylor Pleasants (.312, 12 HRs, 48 RBIs) and Doyle (.282, 10 HRs, 40 RBIs).
The Tigers turned exclusively to sophomore Ali Kilponen (15-8, 1.92 ERA, 119 Ks) and Sunseri (11-5, 2.11 ERA, 81 Ks) in the circle during regional play with Sunseri getting two wins and Kilponen the other in the title game.