For the first time in seven years LSU’s softball team played an NCAA Regional away from home.
For the first time in program history the Tigers failed to win a game in regional play and had their season come to an abrupt halt.
Second-seeded LSU opened with two runs in its half of the first and had twice as many hits in Saturday’s elimination game but were unable to capitalize with base runners on, dropping a 3-2 decision to fourth-seeded Cal State Fullerton at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium.
LSU (34-23) dropped its last four games of the season and lost six of its last nine games.
“Obviously, this year did not go how we had planned,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina added. “I think our team is talented, but we just could not overcome some of the distractions and some of the things that happened throughout. It’s not always about talent. This is not where we want to be, or where we plan to be, and we plan to use our off-season to find ways to improve so that we’re not in this spot again.”
LSU had six of its starters collect at least one hit with first baseman Georgia Clark leading the way with a 2-for-2 showing. However, the Tigers squandered several prime scoring opportunities against winning pitcher Myka Sutherlin (16-6) who stranded nine runners in her complete-game outing. She walked four and struck out four.
LSU starter Ali Kilponen (18-9) responded with a strong outing after getting lifted in the third inning of Friday’s 10-5 loss to San Diego State. She overcame a difficult first inning and shut out Cal State Fullerton (37-21) over the last five innings and wound up allowing four hits, three runs (none earned) with four strikeouts and two walks.
“I was just trying to trust my stuff and defense,” Kilponen said. “I didn’t really throw my best game, honestly, but I know I’m going to be pushing myself this off season.”
All of the game’s scoring took place in the first inning.
Clark gave LSU a 2-0 lead with a two-run single that scored Danieca Coffey and Ciara Briggs, who both singled to begin the game and moved up a base on Taylor Pleasants’ sacrifice bunt.
CSF took the lead for good with three unearned runs against Kilponen in the bottom half of the first inning.
Lead-off batter Morgan Delgadillo singled, stole second base, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. Fullerton tied the game on a throwing error and took a 3-2 lead on Daisy Munoz’s sacrifice fly to center field.
“I just feel like that sums up our whole season,” Torina said of her team’s first inning. “How do you bounce a ball off a helmet, and it goes into the dugout for two runs? It feels like what we dealt with all year long. Just bad break after bad break, and I know that you create your own luck so that’s on us, but it summed up the whole year in everything that happened to us.”
LSU’s offensive frustrations began to mount in the third inning when Clark doubled, and Shelbi Sunseri singled with no outs. Sutherlin got Ali Newland to fly out to center, Morgan Smith to ground out and Morgan Cummins to ground out.
The Tigers continue to have traffic on the bases in the fifth when pinch-hitter Savannah Stewart singled and Ciara Briggs drew a one-out walk. Sutherlin got Pleasants looking at strike three and after walking Clark to load the bases, got Sunseri to foul out.
Pleasants provided a ray of hope when she ended a 1-for-26 stretch with a two-out double down the left field line and was replaced by speedster KK Madrey. Clark drew a full-count walk, but the season ended when Sunseri struck out swinging.