It was never going to be easy. Heck, just getting the games played was a chore, as the weather steadfastly refused to cooperate all weekend long.
But as the Tigers waited out a rain delay which stretched through all of Saturday afternoon and into the night, they were forced to confront the very real possibility that they were going to get eliminated at home to the Ragin’ Cajuns. Again.
LSU had never beaten ULL at Tiger Park, and the Cajuns extended that streak on Saturday. ULL had already cut the LSU lead to 2-1 in the fifth inning when DJ Sanders crushed a three-run homer that proved to be the winning margin. It was about the only mistake Walljasper made all game, but what a doozy.
When the rains came with one out in the second inning of the McNeese game, LSU had played 16 innings of softball and scored just four runs. They had lost to their rival and now had a runner in scoring position for about a six hour delay. LSU had to spend that time and think if this was how they wanted the regional to go.
From that point forward, it was a different LSU softball team. LSU would run rule McNeese 10-1 and then pretty thoroughly kicked the crap out of ULL in the nightcap, 6-1. After scoring just two runs in 16 innings, LSU scored 16 in the 12 innings that night.
The game dragged on to about 1 a.m., so it was an open question whether either team could bounce back for a 1 p.m. start the next day. ULL answered the call first and opened up the scoring in the second inning. LSU would respond with two in the 3rd and another three in the fourth. From that point on, it was just a matter of clinging on for dear life. ULL barely threatened, and LSU secured a 5-1 win and the Baton Rouge Regional title.
LSU would fall behind in two of the final three games of the regional, but came back with authority and won those games by a combined total of 18 runs. They didn’t just rally back from the loser’s bracket, they had to show resiliency in nearly every game.
A resounding series win like this, of course, has its heroes. Emily Griggs went 10 for 12 over the weekend, sparking endless rallies, but also driving in six runs on Sunday and Monday. She was the offensive dynamo the team needed as Bailey Landry scuffled at the plate. On defense, Amber Serrett was a wizard out there. She made countless big plays with her glove and then contributed at the plate with a crucial double as well.
But the real star of the weekend was Carley Hoover. She won a pitcher’s duel against Fairfield in the first game, 2-1. Then, she took the ball on Sunday night and strangled any hope anyone had. McNeese and ULL would each manage one run, but Hoover would allow just eight hits and three walks over the doubleheader. She kept getting better as the game went on, and the tension ramped up.
Beth Torina went with Walljasper to start the final game, and she allowed one run over two innings. She looked good, but not great. But then Walljasper let on the first two batters in the third, and Torina did not hesitate. She needed great in this one, and she summoned Hoover from the pen, who promptly slammed the door shut on the rally and over the final five innings of the regional.
Hoover wasn’t quite as sharp after throwing around 200 pitches the night before, but she cleaned up every mess she made before it got out of control, and kept the Cajuns off of the scoreboard. Most importantly, she never had to face Sanders with multiple runners on.
And now, LSU travels to fourth-seeded Florida St with all of the momentum in the world. If momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitching, there’s no need to worry: we’ve got Carley Hoover.