LSU softball coach Beth Torina has done her best to forget the bone-chilling evening.
The Tigers opened the 2021 season Feb. 11 with McNeese State in a game both teams anxiously awaited after having their 2020 season cancelled in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
What awaited the start of a new season was 49-degree temperatures with wind chills dipping below 40 followed by heavy rain that suspended play for 90 minutes.
When play resumed later that evening amid dropping temperatures LSU, which jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, put the finishing touches on an 8-0 run-rule victory in six innings.
More than three months later when LSU (32-19) meets McNeese State (34-24), where temperatures are forecasted to be in the low 80s – the kind of conditions the Tigers look forward to when they host the NCAA regionals at 3 p.m. Friday which will be televised by ESPNU.
“That was brutal, that was really tough,” said Torina, recalling the conditions from her team’s season opener. It’s always nice this time of year. The hotter the better. That’s how we like it.”
LSU was rewarded with a No. 7 seed by the NCAA Selection Committee that unveiled its 16-site, 64-team bracket where the Tigers will be the top seed in the Baton Rouge regional and host fourth-seeded McNeese in Friday’s first game in a 1 vs. 4 matchup, while second-seeded UL-Lafayette (44-10) faces third-seeded George Washington (37-9) at 5:30 p.m.
Not only did the Tigers receive a Top 7 seed, but they’re also in line to host the Tallahassee, Fla. regional winner in next week’s super regional.
LSU had plenty going for it in the eyes of the NCAA to nail down a host site as one of 33 at-large teams. The Tigers finished with the No. 1 strength of schedule – the nation’s most difficult going back to 2007 – and was No. 7 in RPI and led the nation in Top 25 wins with 12.
“It shows you what we went through this year,” Torina said. “I just told our players that if there were moments where they doubted themselves or felt bad about their record, things that had happened, it shows you how battle tested they are and what they truly went through was shown by the respect of what the committee gave us for what we did this year.”
All-session ticket books will the regional go on sale Wednesday at 9 a.m., starting at $25. If available, single sessions will go on sale Thursday at 9 a.m. starting at $7. Tickets can be purchased at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office or online at LSUtix.net.
LSU’s making its 15th straight appearance in regional play and is hosting for a sixth straight time where because of NCAA guidelines Tiger Park’s capacity will be at 50%.
Not only will McNeese, the Southland Conference tournament champions, return to LSU for a second time this season, but the Cowgirls have previously played faced LSU in Baton Rouge in the postseason with the Tigers taking wins in 2016 and ’10.
UL-Lafayette, the Sun Belt Conference tournament champions, is making its eighth trip to Baton Rouge where they’re 8-5 in games involving LSU.
“We’ve hosted both of them before,” Torina said of UL-Lafayette and McNeese. “They always bring great crowds. They bring a lot of energy. They’re both quality programs. McNeese has to be one of the best four seeds in the whole thing. They’re really talented. They’re really a good team. We have our work cut out for us. We played ULL so early in the year we have a lot of work to do on them. When you have somebody as talented as talented as ULL and close regionally to you it’s almost something you come to expect.”
LSU swept a pair of games this season from UL-Lafayette during the LSU-UL-Lafayette Invitational. The Tigers took a 4-0 victory behind the complete-game pitching of senior Maribeth Gorsuch in Lafayette and two days later in Baton Rouge, the Tigers snapped a 2-all tie with a run in the sixth inning for a 3-2 victory.
The fourth member of the regional, George Washington, captured both the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and postseason tournament championships.
LSU was 13-11 during Southeastern Conference play and went 1-1 in the league’s postseason tournament with a 7-3 win over South Carolina, followed by a 4-1 loss to Missouri.
The Tigers returned home to find out that three of the teams on their schedule – Duke, Liberty, McNeese and UL-Lafayette – all won their respective conference tournament titles, while Oklahoma State reached the title game in the Big 12 Conference event which were all scenarios that served as a final boost to the team’s strength of schedule.
“I thought we had a shot at it,” Torina said at a Top 8 seed. “There were some numbers that we in our favor. Historically they looked at RPI. They’ve looked at Top 25 wins and we were second in the country, first in strength of schedule at an historic level. There were a lot of things going in our favor and when we looked back at the history of the top eight seeds, we fit in with those guys with what we had accomplished.”
Baton Rouge Regional Schedule (All Times CDT)
May 21 3 p.m. #4 McNeese vs. (7) #1 LSU (ESPNU)
May 21 5:30 p.m. #3 George Washington vs. #2 UL-Lafayette (ESPN3)
May 22 2 p.m. G3: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2
May 22 4:30 p.m. G4: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 Elimination Game
May 22 7 p.m. G5: Loser G3 vs. Winner G4 Elimination Game
May 23 1 p.m. G6: Winner G3 vs. Winner G5 Championship Round
May 23 3:30 p.m. (if nec.) G7: Winner G6 vs. Loser G6 Championship Round
Winner Advances to Super Regional (vs. Tallahassee Regional Winner)