No. 7 LSU softball finds itself in a must-win situation to continue season, falling 1-0 to No. 10 Florida State in Super Regional opener

LSU starting pitcher Shelbi Sunseri (left) celebrates with catcher Morgan Cummins during Thursday's NCAA Super Regional against Florida State, which took a 1-0 victory at Tiger Park.

Apparently, LSU’s softball team prefers doing things the unconventional way.

The No. 7 Tigers find themselves down to potentially their final game of the 2021 season after dropping a 1-0 decision to No. 10 Florida State in the first game of Thursday’s NCAA Super Regional before a crowd of 2,339 at Tiger Park.

The series continues at 6 p.m. Friday and will be televised by ESPN2 and broadcast locally by 107.3-FM.

“We’ve been in this spot many times where we lost game one and came back and won the next two and won the series,” LSU senior third baseman Amanda Doyle said. “We’re not worried. We’re just going to go out there and play our game.”

Florida State’s first-team All-ACC pitcher Kathryn Sandercock controlled LSU’s offense, limiting the Tigers (35-21) to a pair of singles from Aliyah Andrews and Ciara Briggs. She walked one and struck out two, extending her streak of scoreless innings in the postseason to 16.

“I was just out there trying to stay calm in the big moments, not making the game bigger than it was,” Sandecock said. “What works for us is trusting the process knowing we were going to get a run across and knowing my defense was going to get it done. They sell out, they’re in the right spots and they make the tough plays.”

LSU has been comfortable all season long playing from behind. The Tigers won eight of 10 three-game series, including six in Southeastern Conference play in which they only twice won the opening game of the respective series.

Most recently in last Sunday’s NCAA regional, the undefeated Tigers dropped the first championship game to UL-Lafayette 2-0, but responded with a 8-5 victory to capture the regional and advance to their sixth straight Super Regional.

This time, they’ll need to follow the similar script to keep their season alive to reach the Women’s College World Series.

“It’s a spot where we’re unfortunately prepared for,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We’ve been here way to often and somehow found a way. We’ll keep doing what we do and still keep finding ways to win. Our backs are against the wall. I know they’ll fight and try to get one tomorrow.”

LSU’s starting pitcher Shelbi Sunseri (11-7) was nearly equal to the task of matching Sandercock. The junior right hander allowed six hits – all singles – walked none and struck out three.

“I threw a well enough game,” said Sunseri, who threw only 88 pitches in her complete-game effort. “I had some plays behind me. We have to score to win and that’s something we’ve seen throughout this year. We have to be able to score to win, have to be able manufacture runs somehow, some way. We just have to find a way to make something happen.”

Florida State (43-10-1) finally broke a scoreless deadlock with a run in the sixth inning to take a 1-0 lead.

The Seminoles picked up consecutive singles from Sydney Sherrill and Kalei Harding, the second of which moved Sherrill to third base.

Following a pop up in foul territory for the first out, designated player Cassidy Davis drove a ball to right field where LSU’s Taryn Antoine recorded the second out of the inning. Her throw to the plate was on target, but Sherrill slid safely under the tag of Cummins.

“She’s a great defensive outfielder,” Torina said of Antoine. “One of the best we’ve ever had here. It was an absolute perfect throw to the plate. We can’t ask for much more.”

Sandercock, who threw a one-hit gem against Central Florida to wrap up last week’s NCAA regional in Tallahassee, retired the first six batters until Sunseri drew a 10-pitch walk to lead off the third.

Cummins lined the first pitch she saw from Sandercock directly to second baseman Devyn Flaherty, who doubled pinch-runner Taylor Tidwell off of first base.

The Tigers got their first base runner beyond second when Aliyah Andrews broke up Sandercock’s no-hitter, leading off the fourth with a solid single to center field.

Andrews was sacrificed to second by Briggs, moved to third on a fly ball to the warning track by Taylor Pleasants, Doyle hit a fly ball to Harding, who after slipping, came on to make the catch for the final out.

LSU started making better contact against Sandercock in its second and third time around in the order. Pleasants’ deep drive to center was the first example the Tigers may have started to see her better with Cummins and Doyle each sharply lining out to FSU third baseman Sherrill. Designated player Danieca Coffey sent a deep drive that left fielder Kaley Mudge had to track going toward the wall.

“I thought we hit things hard, we had some opportunities and didn’t capitalize on them,” Torina said. “I thought Sandercock threw a nice game against us. I thought Shelbi Sunseri threw a nice game against them. We needed to win two games when we started today and we’re still in the exact spot.”

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