By TIGER RAG NEWS SERVICES
HARRISONBURG, Va. – After dropping the opener on Friday, the No. 7 LSU softball team faced the prospect of needing to win two games to keep its season alive. After pulling out a 2-0 win earlier on the day, the Tigers opened the scoring and held on for dear life by weathering late rallies to earn a 3-2 win over the James Madison Dukes in game two to win the 2016 NCAA Harrisonburg Super Regional and qualify for the 2016 Women’s College World Series for the second consecutive year for the first time in program history.
With the win, LSU (50-16) became just the 15th team since 2005 in the current format to drop the opening game of a super regional before claiming the final two to advance to Oklahoma City and the Women’s College World Series. It was the third time ever that LSU has forced a winner-take-all game three, winning each of the last two when including 2012’s win in the Columbia Super Regional in Missouri, as the Tigers will contend for a national title for the fifth time beginning next week at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Engergy Field.
“First I’d like to give huge congratulations to James Madison and Mickey Dean and his staff. What an unbelievable program that has so much heart and fight and he should be really proud of his kids and the way they battled,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I’m proud of our team. In our fight song they call us the Fighting Tigers and I feel like that something we’ve really taken on as a team.”
LSU produced seven hits in the contest, led by Sahvanna Jaquish who went 2-for-3 with an RBI, followed by Kellsi Kloss who went 1-for-3 with an RBI. Bailey Landry, Bianka Bell, Constance Quinn and Amber Serrett also produced hits on the day.
In arguably the biggest stage of her young career, freshman pitcher Sydney Smith (13-3) scattered four hits and allowed two runs, one earned with a strikeout and two walks in four innings of work to secure the victory. Allie Walljasper (2), who earned the win to keep LSU alive earlier in the day, picked up the save as she pitched the final three innings and allowed just one hit with two strikeouts and three walks.
Jailyn Ford (18-3) who exited yesterday’s game with an injury, returned to the circle on Saturday, allowing three runs on five hits in 4.1 innings, striking out four and walking three. Megan Good came on in relief and allowed two hits with a walk in 2.2 innings. Good once again played a pivotal role at the plate as well, belting another home run to tie the game in the fourth inning amid one of JMU’s (50-6) five hits.
The Tigers wasted little time in trying to make a statement, as with two outs in the first a single by Bell to right put one on, as Jaquish singled to center to put two on. The first salvo was levied by Kloss who singled to left, driving in Bell to make it 1-0 LSU.
With an out in the bottom of the first, a walk put a Duke runner on as a passed ball moved the runner to second. A grounder to third kept the runner at bay for the second out, but a single through the left side put runners at the corners.
After getting through much of the game unscathed, the first swing at-bat of the bottom of the fourth leveled things up, as a solo home run for James Madison tied the game at 1-1. A walk put another JMU runner on, but a double play to short put two quick outs on the board. A grounder to second ended the inning for the Dukes.
With an out in the top of the fifth, Emily Griggs drew a walk to reach first base. A walk on four pitches allowed Sandra Simmons to reach to put two on as a ripped single up the middle of the infield from Landry and an error in center allowed Griggs to score to make it 2-1 LSU. A passed ball advanced the two runners to second and third, as a walk to Bell loaded the bases and prompted a pitching change, with Jaquish drilling one deep to center allowing Simmons to tag up and score from third to make it 3-1.
In the bottom half of the inning, a leadoff single would be the final play for Smith as Walljasper came on in relief. She would catch a liner back to the circle for the first out, but a hit batter put two on for the Dukes. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, but a grounder to third checked the runners and kept all at bay.
LSU looked to be out of the inning, but an error allowed a JMU run to cross to make it 3-2. An intentional walk loaded the bases, and the threat was mitigated with an infield popup to end the inning.
With an out in the top of the sixth, Quinn and Serrett earned consecutive infield singles to put two runners on for the Tigers. Quinn wound up stealing third to put runners at the corners, as a grounder allowed Serrett to move up to put runners at second and third. Simmons was intentionally walked to load the bases for LSU, but a liner to dead center ended the LSU inning.
A walk opened the bottom of the seventh for JMU, as on the next play Quinn made a diving stop to keep a hit from falling for the first out. Walljasper got a strikeout next to put the Dukes to the sword for the second out, but a bloop single and advance put runners at second and third.
An intentional walk loaded the bases for the Dukes, putting everything on the line with one batter standing between the Tigers and Oklahoma City. A pair of balls came first, with a strike, and a foul tip putting the board at two, two and two. Walljasper saved her final and best pitch for last as a swing-and-miss recorded the strikeout and sending LSU to the Women’s College World Series.
Game 1: LSU 2, James Madison 0
Facing the end of their season, the No. 10 LSU softball team got a seven-inning, five-hit shutout in the circle from Allie Walljasper and scored both of its runs in the fourth inning to earn a 2-0 win over No. 8 James Madison to force a winner-take-all game three Saturday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg.
In her first seven-inning complete-game shutout since Southern Miss, Walljasper (11-5) struck out five and walked just one on 84 pitches against the Dukes (50-5), shutting out JMU for the first time in 55 games dating back to last season.
Kellsi Kloss belted her 10th home run of the season to stoke the LSU (49-16) offense in the fourth, getting an RBI hit also from Emily Griggs as well. Elyse Thornhill and Amber Serrett each posted hits for the Tigers in the contest.
Megan Good (32-3) suffered the loss, going the distance and allowing both runs on five hits with five walks and three strikeouts. Good also aided her cause as one of the five JMU hits in the game.
While there was one hit between the two sides midway through three, LSU was the first team to get multiple runners on base in the bottom of the third as Sandra Simmons earned a walk to reach first after an out. After a strikeout, Bianka Bell earned a walk to put two on as LSU was looking to strike, but a deep fly to left center ended the Tiger threat.
In the top of the fourth a single to right center and a bunt single put two JMU runners on base with no outs. A grounder to Bell at third put the first out on the board to get out the lead runner, as a fly out to left put two on the board. On the very next play, Serrett made a leaning grab to save a potential RBI hit to end the inning and the Duke threat.
Kloss didn’t wait long to give LSU its first hit and run, smoking a shot to the bleachers in left center to give LSU a 1-0 lead over James Madison in the bottom of the fourth. Thornhill singled to short to reach first, advancing to second on a Quinn sacrifice bunt. A single to center by Serrett put runners at the corners, as Griggs came through with a hard-hit infield single to plate another run to make it 2-0 Tigers.
LSU got the first two outs of the fifth quickly, but a bunt single to third and single to left put two JMU runners on just as quickly. Fortunately, a liner to second ended the frame to keep the Dukes off of the board.
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