By Tiger Rag News Services
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For the second time in as many years, the LSU softball team faced an elimination game against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and for the second time the Tigers earned the victory by jumping out to a big lead and locking down when it counted in a 6-4 win Saturday afternoon to advance to Sunday action in the 2016 Women’s College World Series.
The Tigers will play Georgia on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. CT at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – OGE Energy Field in Oklahoma City. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
A solo home run from the bat of Sandra Simmons ignited the Tiger (51-17) offense as the team produced six runs on nine hits, including plating four in the fourth after Alabama (51-14) pulled within one of the team after three. From there, LSU was cruising until a late rally by the Crimson Tide caused the squad to buckle down and thwart a comeback in the final two innings to hold on for the victory.
“You can’t expect anything less from an LSU-Alabama matchup. It’s a battle every time these two teams take the field,” head coach Beth Torina said. “Alabama is a class program, especially with their four seniors, and we have so much respect for them and how they play the game. As for our team, I thought we fought hard, played well and had a lot of kids step up.”
Simmons finished the game going 2-for-3 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored, as her home run to lead off the contest was the first for an LSU player since 2009. Simmons was followed by Bailey Landry who went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
Sahvanna Jaquish made the most of her one hit, driving in two with a walk. Kellsi Kloss also drove in a run for the Tigers, as Bianka Bell, Elyse Thornhill, Amber Serrett and Emily Griggs each produced hits for LSU.
Carley Hoover (21-8) earned the win for LSU in the circle, allowing four runs, three earned, on seven hits with a pair of walks and strikeouts in five innings, as Allie Walljasper (3) picked up her third save of the year and second of the postseason as she pitched two innings and allowed just two hits with a strikeout.
Sydney Littlejohn (23-7), who had the only win in the regular season series against the two teams in SEC play, allowed four runs on five hits in 4.2 innings, striking out one with two walks. Madi Moore pitched 2.1 innings and allowed two runs on four hits with a walk in relief. Leona Lafaele was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Haylie McCleney was 2-for-3.
Unlike the previous night where the scoring came in the latter innings, the Tigers didn’t wait long to strike first as Simmons belted her sixth long ball of the year to give LSU an early 1-0 advantage. Landry followed with a high-chopping single to left to reach, as an error allowed Bell to reach to put two on. After a pair of outs, Thornhill walked to load the bases, but a strikeout ended the inning.
In the bottom half of the frame a leadoff double put an Alabama runner on base, as the runner tagged up on a deep fly ball to right. With the tying run just steps away from home plate, a grounder to Serrett at short held the runner for the second out, as Hoover came up with a looking strikeout to end the inning.
Bell led off the top of the third with a ripped single up the middle of the infield to reach. Bell moved to second on a Jaquish sacrifice bunt and with the defense napping motored to third on the play sliding in safely. Kloss hit a slow roller to second to force Alabama to make the play at the bag, allowing Bell to score making it 2-0 LSU.
A double to open the bottom half of the inning put an Alabama runner on, as a running catch by Landry in right gave the Crimson Tide its first out. A walk put two on, as an infield single loaded the bases. A single to the short porch in left drove in a run, but an inning-ending double-play to Quinn at second kept another from crossing, maintaining LSU’s lead.
With an out in the top of the fourth, Serrett dropped a single just behind the second base bag in center to reach, as Griggs stepped up next and ripped a double to right center to put two in scoring position for the Tigers, prompting an Alabama pitching change.
Moore came in but the outcome remained the same as Simmons dropped a single to left, advancing to second on the throw in as Serrett scored to make it 3-1.
A passed ball allowed Griggs to score from third right after to make it a 4-1 game for LSU. A walk to Landry put runners at the corners, as a diving stop on a flare at second kept another hit from scoring a run for the second out. However, Jaquish didn’t miss when her name was called, ripping a double to left over the head of the outfielder in left to plate two more making it 6-1 Tigers.
The Crimson Tide were able to pull a run back in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run to left center, making it 6-2 LSU at that point.
A hit batter put another Alabama runner on, with an error putting two on. A single to right center drove in another Crimson Tide run, making it 6-3 with Walljasper coming on in relief.
An infield single loaded the bases for Alabama, but the Tigers would get the first out at the plate on a fielder’s choice. However, the second error of the inning brought in another run to cut LSU’s lead to just two at 6-4, but another force out at the plate and a grounder to third ended the inning and the Crimson Tide rally.
Walljasper netted a strikeout to open the bottom of the seventh, but after a single to right center, the Tigers closed the door in dramatic fashion getting a 1-6-3 double play to end the game and earn the victory, keeping LSU alive in the WCWS.