Softball to Face No. 1 Cal in WCWS Opener

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Softball to Face No. 1 Cal in WCWS Opener

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Fresh off its NCAA College Station Regional and Columbia Super Regional championships, the LSU softball team will appear in the program’s third Women’s College World Series Thursday when the Tigers face off with No. 1 national seed California.

First pitch is on-tap for 2:30 p.m. from the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2 along with ESPN3.com with Pam Ward, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe serving as the broadcast team.

LSU (39-23) picked up 6-1 and 3-1 triumphs over No. 9 national seed Missouri in between a 5-1 defeat in 12 innings to punch its ticket to the WCWS. The Tigers became only the third team since 2005 in the current regional/super regional to reach the WCWS after knocking off two seeded teams on the road. 

“We’re thrilled and honored to be a part of this final eight,” head coach Beth Torina said. “We’re excited to be in Oklahoma City. The minute we set foot on the field for practice was something special. Our team is very excited to represent LSU on the biggest of stages.”

California (56-5) is paced by Valerie Arioto, a USA Softball Player of the Year finalist. She has racked up a team-leading .385 batting average to go along with 23 home runs and 60 RBIs. In the circle, Arioto has posted a 20-3 record and a 1.32 ERA. She has tallied 155 strikeouts in her 127.0 innings of action.

The Golden Bears offense also consists of Cheyenne Cordes, Frani Echavarria, Danielle Henderson, Breana Kostreba and Jace Williams who have all produced more than 40 RBI apiece. Jamia Reid has garnered a .385 hitting clip on 84 hits and 47 stolen bases from the top of the lineup.

Jolene Henderson has secured wins in 36 of her 38 decisions and a blistering 1.10 ERA from the circle. The junior right-hander has mowed down 304 batters, the 13th highest total nationally.  She has fired 17 shutouts and held her opponents to a .189 batting average.

“Cal is definitely one of the best teams in the country, if not the best on paper,” Torina said. “They have two first team all-Americans in Arioto and Henderson. We’ll definitely have our work cut for us to try and slow down their strong offense and talented pitching staff.”

Allison Falcon and Simone Heyward were the offensive heroes for LSU during the NCAA Columbia Super Regional. Falcon garnered a 2-for-3 effort with a career-best three RBIs the Tigers 6-1 game one victory, while Heyward delivered a bases-clearing double to collect her first extra-base hit in the winner-take-all rubber contest.  

“Our players have done a great job of focusing on being selfless,” Torina said. “They’ve been about doing things for one another. Simone has been huge for us in both the regional and the super regional round. We’re glad to have her back healthy and in the lineup.” 

The Rachele FicoBrittany Mack tandem has garnered 35 of LSU’s 39 wins and has put together an impressive NCAA postseason. The duo has racked up 45 strikeouts and held the opposition to a paltry .145 hitting ratio during 47 frames of NCAA Tournament action.  

Fico has notched 20-11 mark with a blistering 0.92 ERA, which is tops in the nation. Her 13 shutouts also are tied for fifth in the NCAA rankings. The Oxford, Conn., native followed up her NCAA College Station Regional performance and claimed both victories for the Tigers in the NCAA Columbia Super Regional sparked by a one run, two hit performance in game three of the series.

Mack racked up a career-high 17 strikeouts in a tough-luck, 12-inning loss to Missouri. LSU’s defense committed four errors which led to five unearned runs. For the season, the senior right-hander is 15-12 with a 2.21 ERA.

Ashley Langoni has posted hits in four of LSU’s six postseason outings. She is the Tiger triple-crown leader with a .265 batting average, six home runs and 30 RBIs. The senior left fielder also ranks among the program’s top 10 in career homers and RBIs.

Every LSU postseason game will have live audio and live stats inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. The games also will be carried live on Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway set to call the action.

Fans can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live in-game updates on LSU softball’s social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @LSU_Softball on Twitter. 

2012 NCAA WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
May 31 – June 6
ASA Hall of Fame Stadium
Oklahoma City, Okla.

Wednesday Press Conference Quotes (Session 2)

CALIFORNIA HEAD COACH DIANE NINEMIRE

Opening comment:
“The University of California is very honored and privileged to be here. We would like to thank the NCAA and the city of Oklahoma City for hosting this. This is our 12th trip here. Every year it seems to get more exciting. They have done so much to the facility. It’s just a great opportunity for us to be able to play on this stage.”

On the fact that UCLA and Arizona are not here and if getting here is half the battle today:
“Parity is happening and it’s across the country. Any team in any part of the country can be here now. It makes this sport so much more exciting. I know even in our Pac 12 Conference this year anybody can beat anybody on any given day. You couldn’t take anybody lightly. You had to have your best pitching going that day, your best hitting, your best defense. It just really makes you have to be prepared for every game and be ready for it.”

On Valerie Arioto’s play this year and coming back from injury:
“She has had an outstanding year this year. She has led our team in every category. She’s been part of our important pitching staff. She has led our team in hitting, RBI’s, home runs; she has done it all. I know last year we thought ‘Why did this injury happen to her?’ But now we know why. It gives us the opportunity to have a much stronger team here at the World Series to represent our program. She has just done everything you could ask a player to do for your team. She has just done an outstanding job.”

CALIFORNIA SENIOR UTILITY VALERIE ARIOTO

On what she has seen of LSU’s pitchers and what she is expecting of them:
“I think LSU, all-around, is a great team. We got to play them before. Their pitching staff kept us off balance. They did a great job. I think our team is prepared, seeing them before. I think both teams are just going to go out there and play hard, so it should be a good series.”

On how hard it was to sit out last year with her injury:
“At the start of last year I was a little bummed, obviously. It was a bad experience for me. Looking back, I couldn’t imagine doing anything different. I got the chance to see the game from a different perspective and learn from it; just watch the games. But it has been a great year.”

LSU HEAD COACH BETH TORINA

Opening comment:
“We are very excited to be here, too. Congratulations to the other seven teams that are a part of this field. I think the teams that we came through to get to this point had great years, too. There are a lot of quality teams that are in the NCAA. We are excited to be back here. This is LSU’s first trip since 2004 and we are thrilled to be a part of the field.”

On what they did after the SEC tournament to turn things around and have a better postseason:
“I think for the first time our team really understands who they are as an offense. I think we struggled for a lot of the season trying to be something that we aren’t. We don’t have power numbers. It’s obvious on paper. I think we are capable of scoring runs. We finally understand who we are. We are able to do that by being more productive; having more productive at bats, manufacturing and not trying to look for the one swing or the one big hit.”

LSU SENIOR INFIELDER JULIANA SANTOS

On what they did after the SEC tournament to turn things around and have a better postseason:
“Basically after the SEC tournament the coaches just talked to us and they said, ‘You know, from here on out everybody is even. It doesn’t matter what you did, it matters what you do from here on out. Everybody is going into the postseason 0-0.’ At practice we really focused on being selfless; moving the runners, not trying to do too much for yourself, but to do something for somebody else. I think we were obviously very successful at that we were able to move the runners and score the few runs we needed to score with such an amazing pitching staff that we have.”  

On how they feel facing California again:
“We have seen Jolene (Henderson) before, so we know we are confident. We know what she throws. We have been working hard on it. We were able to manufacture runs off her. Obviously, the game didn’t end the way we wanted it to the first time around. Lucky for us we get another chance. Another chance doesn’t happen very often. Just playing that first game and manufacturing those runs that we can is really going to count tomorrow.”

OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH PATTY GASSO

Opening comment:
“Just following up in excitement and congratulations to everybody that’s here. We feel spoiled to be a team that’s 25 miles away from Hall of Fame Stadium. We’re looking forward to having great fan support for all teams. We’re just really pleased to be here and love the way we’re playing right now.”

On the parity of the sport:
“I told the team today that the hard part has already happened, now it’s time to go out there and have fun with what you’re doing. The hard part is getting here. Going through Arizona, UCLA and all the teams we had to go through.  All the teams here had to go through a tough road and it makes us better. We absolutely respect those teams, knowing what UCLA and Arizona have accomplished in the history of this field and here at the College World Series have been tremendous.  It’s an honor when you can go through a team like that to get here. I don’t want to see Arizona again in a super regional and I don’t think they want to see us again.  It’s part of the fight. It’s part of the battle. You have to go through someone extremely tough through the regional and super regional to be at the grand prize, and the eight teams here have found a way to do that.”

On OU’s WCWS team last year compared to this season:
“Experience is invaluable. I think that will really help us this time around. The mentality that we have, coming in and just being excited to be here or excited to actually try to win it all. I’m trusting every team here is excited to win it all, not just to be here. The Sooners, last year, were still living on adrenaline from Tucson. We came here in the World Series and we weren’t quite put together to handle that. The experience helped us tremendously throughout this season and going into this next weekend.”

OKLAHOMA JUNIOR PITCHER KEILANI RICKETTS

On OU’s team last year compared to this season:
“I think the difference is that last year, our biggest goal was to get to the World Series. We had a lot of struggles going into postseason. We didn’t have our main players playing in position. Everyone was out of position, we were just trying to get out on the field and play as hard as we could to get as far as we could get. This year, we’ve grown a lot. We’ve been having a great year and our team’s a lot deeper than last year. With the desire that we had last year and how deep we are this year with our lineup, I think that we are coming into the World Series stronger than we were.”

SOUTH FLORIDA HEAD COACH KEN ERIKSEN

Opening comment:
“It’s an honor to represent your school in the national championship of your sport. I think this year, more than any other year, I’ve been coaching and coaching against the great coaches up here. It’s been a wide open field all year long.  It’s been a very exciting parity-type of season for NCAA Division I softball. I’m really looking forward to this week because I think you’re going to see some really good softball, from a really good number of teams. You’ve got a bunch of really great players that are not only national team players, but you’ve got some of the greatest college softball players in the history of one season of softball. It should be exciting.”

On OU’s Keilani Ricketts and Jessica Shults:
“They’re two people that you want to meet in your life. If my daughters grow up to be half the people that those two kids are, I’m pretty fortunate. We had some fun last year, growing together with the national team program. The big cat here (Keilani Ricketts), she can do a lot of good things. I equate Keilani to Babe Ruth. There aren’t many people that could be in the circle or be on the mound and throw the ball as well as Babe Ruth and Keilani did, and hit as well as they do also. But more than anything else, she’s probably one of the most humble people that I’ve ever met, and Jessica (Shults) is right along those type of lines.”

On facing two of his USA National Team players tomorrow:
“Tomorrow is going to be a competition, make no bones about it. Keilani might like me right now, but tomorrow she’s not going to like USF. But that’s right, and that’s the way it is. I wouldn’t expect anything different. She knows that, Coach Gasso knows that and our team knows that, too. When it’s all said and done, I guarantee you there will be shaking hands and hugs. We’re looking forward to the competition.”

SOUTH FLORIDA SENIOR INFIELDER JESSICA MOUSE

On her relationship with her former teammates at LSU:
“I was trying to tell my teammates on USF earlier that when you’re at a program for four years, they became my sisters. You go through struggles, you play games, you condition, you do all that kind of stuff.  So, of course, you still love them. If we potentially go up against each other, they’re going be trying to compete and beat us and the same goes for USF. When it’s all said and done, I’m still going to be best friends with some of them and it is what it is. I’m so excited that they’re here and I am fortunate enough to be an alum of both schools.  I’m excited.”