TUSCALOOSA, Ala - Brittany Mack limited the high-octane Florida offense to a run on two hits, but that was enough to propel the seventh-ranked Gators to post a 1-0 victory over the LSU softball team in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament held at Rhoads Stadium on the University of Alabama campus.
Florida (45-10) will advance to Friday’s first semifinal to face either No. 5 Tennessee or Auburn, while the Tigers (34-22) await their NCAA Tournament destination handed out by the selection committee Sunday 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
“We just came up short on the offensive side,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I thought we pitched a really good game and held a really quality offensive team to one run and two hits. It was a well-played game. Honestly, we just didn’t come up with the timely hit. We had a lot of runners on-base and just missed that one timely hit to win it.”
The Gators manufactured the game’s only run during the fifth inning. Bailey Castro drew a four-pitch, opening walk and pinch runner Briana Little scooted into second base on Katie Medina’s sacrifice bunt. Two batters later and with two outs, Sami Fagan chopped a RBI single over the head of Mack and into centerfield on a hit-and-run play to score Little.
Lauren Haeger retired the final seven LSU batters she faced to secure the 1-0 victory. The SEC All-Freshman pick tallied eight strikeouts and worked around five walks to improve to 14-4 on the season.
LSU’s defense turned two spectacular inning-ending double plays to keep Florida off the scoreboard in the second and third innings.
With the bases loaded and one out in the second, Medina ripped a line drive down the first base line which was snagged by Dylan Supak. She alertly turned around, dove and tagged the bag to end the frame.
Mack used all of her 5-11 frame to snag a soft line drive by Cheyenne Coyle and fired a strike to shortstop Juliana Santos, who tagged Kasey Fagan to stop the threat.
Mack, the SEC’s Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year, notched four strikeouts versus three walks in her five-plus innings of work before giving way to Rachele Fico, who sat Florida down in 1-2-3 fashion during the sixth inning after a Haeger leadoff single.
With the tough-luck loss, Mack dropped to 14-11 for the season. The senior right-hander has received only 12 runs of support in her 11 setbacks.
LSU collected two hits, singles by Morgan Russell and Cassie Trosclair. The Tigers filled the bases during the second and fifth innings. However, Haeger wiggled out of trouble with a strikeout of A.J. Andrews on three pitches and an Allison Falcon fly out.
“I think that hitting is so much about mentality,” Torina said. “The fact that we continue to struggle and struggle is of course going to affect their mentality. The strongest people are Brittany Mack and Rachele Fico. They don’t get beat. They don’t stop fighting. I don’t know another pitcher in the country that could put out those kinds of performances with that kind of pressure. They do a great job, so hats off to those two without question.”
“We have been trying different things to get the offense back and confident - different things in practice and different types of batting practice,” Torina continued. “We will try to think of something new this week to go back and get them ready for NCAAs. It’s tough when you are facing this caliber of pitching day-in and day-out in the SEC.”
With a RPI rating of 25 entering the week, LSU will receive an at-large berth in next week’s NCAA Regionals. The 16 four-team sites will be announced Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Every LSU postseason game will have live audio and live stats available 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.