Softball Opens NCAA Baton Rouge Regional Friday
BATON ROUGE, La. – The No. 8 LSU softball team, the No. 5 national seed overall, begins play as the host for the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional at 6 p.m. Friday evening with a matchup against the SWAC Champion Texas Southern Tigers on ESPN2 at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge.
The double-elimination format for the opening round of the 2015 NCAA Softball Championships begins in Baton Rouge at 3:30 p.m. with Arizona State taking on Nebraska to kick off the weekend, which runs this Friday-Sunday at Tiger Park. That game will be televised on ESPN3, with the nightcap featuring both sets of Tigers airing on ESPN2 with Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza and Michelle Smith, as ESPN will carry the rest of the games throughout the weekend.
Weekend books are currently on sale, while individual game tickets will be made available beginning Friday through the LSU Ticket Office by logging on to LSUTix.net or calling (800) 960-8587. Gates to Tiger Park will open 90 minutes prior to the first game of each day. The stadium will be cleared for ensuing games with the exception of Games 6 and 7 (the “if necessary” championship game). Fans must re-enter the stadium with a ticket for the following game.
For fans unable to make the trip, every game of LSU’s postseason run will be aired on the radio home of LSU softball on ESPN 104.5/104.9 locally in Baton Rouge or in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net.
LSU is making its 17th postseason appearance in program history in 2015, extending its record run of appearances in the championship to 10 straight seasons, the longest in program history. With the fifth overall seed in the entire tournament, not only is it the highest placing for the Tigers in program history, but it gives the team a chance to have the road to Oklahoma City run through Baton Rouge with a Super Regional berth at home at stake.
“I think we have a great team with a lot of weapons and is extremely talented, and had a lot of high goals all season long who is ready to accomplish them,” head coach Beth Torina said. “Although we have a lot of young players on the team, we do have a lot with good experience who remember what last year was like and are ready to take that next step this year.”
The Tigers are one of five SEC teams to earn one of the coveted top eight seeds along with Florida (No. 1), Auburn (No. 4), Alabama (No. 6) and Tennessee (No. 8). In all, seven conference members are hosting when you include Missouri at ten and Georgia at 14, going to show the strength of a conference as a whole in which LSU earned wins over six of the 11 total teams that made the postseason just from the league itself.
“No question that we’ve played the best of the best, and that’s just over the past 10 games alone,” Torina said. “This team is capable of playing with anyone in the country. The biggest thing I want the team to understand is that if they show up with confidence, they can play with anyone and they’ll be in good shape.”
This is the first time since 2013 that LSU will be able to open regional play at home, earning that feat for the eighth time in program history. With an overall mark in the postseason at 49-33, the Tigers are 40-23 in the regional round, winning 17 games at home in the program history. The team earned three of those victories last season in Tucson, making it all the way to the regional final.
LSU is led by its eight All-SEC performers in first-teamers Bianka Bell, Carley Hoover, Sahvanna Jaquish and Kellsi Kloss, second-teamers A.J. Andrews and Bailey Landry, all-freshman selection Emily Griggs and all-defensive team selection Sandra Simmons.
Bell leads the offensive charge for the Tigers, hitting .459 at this point in the season with 18 doubles, a triple and 16 home runs in her junior campaign. She, along with the six noted above that earned league honors, are hitting over .300 individually at the plate as the squad has set record numbers in batting average (.343), slugging (.458), on-base percentage (.435) and RBIs (339) in a season, while knocking on the door of season home runs (56) and total runs scored (.369).
First team and all-freshman hurler Hoover leads the LSU pitching staff in wins with 14, as the quartet of pitchers along with fellow freshman Allie Walljasper and sophomores Baylee Corbello and Kelsee Selman combine for a team ERA of 1.89 heading into the weekend. Corbello has thrown the only no-hitter this year, while Selman has only allowed 18 total runs and Walljasper leading the group with a paltry 1.76 ERA.
The first team up for LSU is the two-time SWAC champion in Texas Southern, who claimed the league’s auto-bid with a 9-0 win in the championship last weekend. TSU is 25-16 overall, as this is only the third ever meeting between LSU and Texas Southern in program history.
Opening the weekend will be a matchup of Big Ten and Pac-12 powers in Nebraska and Arizona State. The Cornhuskers are coming off of a valiant loss in the Big Ten title game to Michigan, while the Sun Devils finished fourth in the Pac-12, a conference that does not sponsor a championship tournament. The Tigers have already played Nebraska once this year, winning 10-2 at the Mary Nutter tournament in February, while a meeting with ASU looms for the first time since the end of the 2012 season.
“These are all big names, and they’ve all been there and done that, so this is nobody’s first time in the postseason,” Torina said. “We have three teams in this regional that are going to be tough to beat this time of year because they are all so experienced. We know we have our work cut out for us, but I’m confident that we are going to be ready come Friday.”
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @BethTorina on Twitter and @lsusb on Instagram.