Tigers eliminated from NCAA Tournament
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The legendary career of National Fastpitch Coaches Association and Louisiana Hall of Fame coach Yvette Girouard came to a close as the No. 20 LSU softball team fought hard but fell 3-1 in nine innings to No. 18 Texas A&M Sunday at the Aggie Softball Complex.
LSU (40-18), facing elimination for the third time at the NCAA College Station Regional, carried a 1-0 advantage for most of the game behind an outstanding pitching effort from Brittany Mack in the circle. She retired 14 straight batters going back to the second inning before Meghan May cranked a solo home run to left field on the first pitch of the seventh inning.
The Aggies (44-13), a No. 16 national seed, added a pair of runs on back-to-back two-out RBI singles from Amber Garza and Rhiannon Kliesing during the ninth inning for the final margin of 3-1.
Texas A&M extended the nation’s longest home winning streak to 27 games, but will face either No. 1 national seed Arizona State or San Diego State in the NCAA Super Regional round.
Mack went the distance and allowed three runs, one earned, on four hits. She recorded seven strikeouts against two walks and finished her junior campaign with a 20-7 record.
“We have phenomenal pitching, but runs are hard for us to come by at times,” head coach Yvette Girouard said. “I thought Brittany was outstanding once again. She was on fire, and it was a tough game to win against an unbeaten team at home, a huge vocal crowd. I’m proud of our kids for fighting to the end.”
With the score tied at 1-1 and one out in the ninth inning, Brittany Walker dropped a bunt down the third base line and knocked the ball out of the glove of LSU second baseman Cassie Trosclair covering first base. After a walk to May, Orsak knocked a RBI single to centerfield on a 0-2 offering to hand the Aggies a 2-1 advantage.
The next batter, Kliesing, popped up a ball that went untouched past a diving Tammy Wray at third base and into foul territory. The home plate umpire, Willie Newman, ruled the ball foul originally. The A&M runners continued to round the bases before LSU shortstop Juliana Santos picked up the ball near the dugout and fired to Wray for an out. After an umpire meeting, Terry Holt from his third base post overruled Newman’s call to give the Aggies a 3-1 edge.
In the bottom of the eighth, LSU first baseman Anissa Young was hit-by-a-pitch on a 3-1 offering. She was called back to the batter’s box and accessed strike two. She swung and miss on the next pitch before being ejected by Newman going back to the dugout. Newman then tossed Girouard.
“It should be about the athletes,” Girouard said. “Although she slammed her bat [going back to the dugout], she said absolutely nothing to the umpire. I asked him what she said, and he said ‘He didn’t know’. I think the adult in that situation could have had a little thicker skin. This is a kid competing at the highest level in a very emotional situation, he made it too much about the blue.”
LSU grabbed a 1-0 lead during the first inning and made the most of a pair of walks to Santos and Wray in between a Young hit batter. Lauren Houston delivered a clutch RBI single to left field for the game’s first run.
After A&M’s homer by May, the Tigers had an opportunity to walkoff with a victory in the home half of the frame. Alex Boulet and Simone Heyward dropped consecutive two-out singles, but Santos popped up to first base to end the threat.
Melissa Dumezich went all nine innings for the Aggies and tallied seven Ks to pick up her 30th victory of the season.
LSU finished with 40 victories for the 13th time in 15 seasons since softball was reinstated in 1997. It marked the final game for senior Tiffany Shaw, and the Tigers are slated to return 15 letterwinners for the 2012 season.
“I think they’ll have a phenomenal pitching staff and got some good-looking kids coming in,” Giroaurd said. “There’s a possibility of Jessica Mouse and Ashley Applegate trying the redshirt, but that’s up to the new coach. But the foundation is solid, there’s tremendous leadership in the circle so I think they’re in great shape.”