On the backs of its outstanding pitching, LSU was able to win both games on Saturday against James Madison, 2-0 and 3-2, and secured its berth to the Women’s College World Series Finals in Oklahoma City.
For the first game, Beth Torina turned to Allie Walljasper. The sophomore hurler did not disappoint, scattering five hits and a walk while striking out five in a complete game shutout. She retired the first six and the last six batters of the game. Walljasper did have to work out of a few jams, most notably in the fourth in a tied game, with runners on first and second and no outs, but ultimately kept the Dukes off the board.
In game two, Torina turned to Sydney Smith who, despite laboring through four innings, effectively limited the JMU offense. Although she allowed at least one runner to reach in all four of the innings she pitched, she held the Dukes to two runs, one earned, on four hits and two walks.
After allowing the first runner of the fifth to reach, Torina went back to Walljasper to close out the game. Walljasper would walk a tight rope that inning, allowing that leadoff runner to reach third after a hit batter and wild pitch, with the run ultimately scoring on an error by Bianka Bell. Though with the bases loaded and two outs, she induced a pop out to Bell and ended the threat. She retired the side in the sixth, but in the seventh, after recording two outs with a runner on third, she loaded the bases once again, before striking out Jailyn Ford to end the game and send the Tigers to Oklahoma City.
LSU’s offense did just enough on Saturday to top the JMU pitching. Although they managed just four hits in the first game, the Tigers got all the offense they needed in the fourth inning. With Megan Good coming on in relief, Kellsi Kloss homered to center on the first pitch thrown by Good. Elyse Thornhill singled and advanced to third after a sac bunt by Constance Quinn, then a single by Amber Serrett, and scored when Emily Griggs hit a line drive that bounced off Good’s glove for an infield single.
Kloss began the scoring for the Tigers in the first inning of game two when she singled in Sahvanna Jaquish from second. In the fifth inning, after back-to-back walks, JMU misplayed a Bailey Landry single, allowing Griggs to come home. Following a passed ball and a walk to Bell, Jaquish flew out to center, scoring Sandra Simmons.
Defensively, the Tigers were a mixed bag on Saturday. Kloss made a big throw to third in the fourth inning of game one, helping Walljasper escape unharmed. However in game two, Bell’s throwing error gave JMU a run.
Perhaps the most notable take away from Saturday was the absence of Carley Hoover, marking the first time in 12 postseason games Hoover didn’t record a win or save. Additionally, more credit must be given to Torina for going with Sydney Smith in the deciding game three. After perhaps being underutilized at points of the season, this postseason has all but confirmed her absolute trust in the freshman hurler. Walljasper, of course, has to be considered the MVP of this series. Her ten innings of shutout ball were invaluable to this win.
Entering this series LSU had to take advantage of its opportunities to score against the Dukes, and they did just that going 6-for-17 (.353) of hitting with runners in scoring position. This was also a true team effort on offense, with every part of the lineup contributing. From Simmons’ home run from the leadoff spot in game one to Griggs’ RBI out of the nine spot in the second game; everyone played a part in winning the super regional.
The last person that needs praise is Coach Torina. She now has the most WCWS appearances by an LSU head coach with three, including two road Super Regional victories. She is the first coach to lead the Tigers to back-to-back trips to Oklahoma City. When the Tigers hit their midseason slump she made the lineup adjustments, noticeably with Simmons leading off, and pitching adjustments, with more opportunities for Smith, and those moves paid dividends in the latter half of the season, including the postseason.
For now, LSU awaits the winner of Michigan-Missouri for its first game of the WCWS, celebrates an awesome season and prepares to make to make its run at a championship.
OKC BOUND!!! pic.twitter.com/HEfgPNlmwt— Billy Hicks (@18handicap) May 28, 2016