LSU set for Austin NCAA Regional

Finishing the season 49-16 and runners up for the SEC Tournament Championship, the LSU softball team expected to be rewarded for their efforts with a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.<br><br>The NCAA Softball Selection Committee didn't see it that way.

The Tigers (49-16) were sent to Austin, Texas as a fourth seed and will open up regional play with 5th-seeded Hawaii Thursday at 9 a.m.

LSU head coach Yvette Girouard knew that Austin could be a likely destination for the Tigers but was not pleased with a No. 4 seeding.


"It's disappointing," Girouard said. "I really feel like it's the second year that we have not gotten a favorable seed."


The first round opponent for the Tigers will be the WAC powerhouse Hawaii Rainbows. The Rainbows (37-18, 17-3 WAC) are led by junior infielder Stacey Porter. The Australian native has started all 55 games for Hawaii this season and is the Rainbows leading hitter as she is batting an amazing .468 on the season.


Porter leads Hawaii in every major offensive category as she has 17 home runs, 38 RBI's 14 doubles and four triples. She is the most lethal threat on the base paths for the Rainbows having swiped 11 bases in 12 attempts this season.


In the circle, sophomore Melissa Coogan anchors a Rainbow pitching staff that has a very solid 1.70 team ERA. Coogan (29-9) has had a solid season for Hawaii as she leads the team in ERA (1.40), innings pitched (245.1).


Unlike power pitchers, Coogan relies on her teammates to help retire opposing batters having struck out just 118 batters and giving up 210 hits on the season.


Shannon Tabion (6-8) is the second option in the circle for Hawaii. She has started 16 games this season and has a 2.31 ERA.


If the Tigers are able to beat the Rainbows, it could set up a classic match up with the top-seeded and host team Texas Longhorns.


The Longhorns (43-7 15-2 Big 12) are the nation's third overall seed and are led by all-everything pitcher Cat Osterman.


The 6-1 sophomore left-hander from Houston has had a season to remember in the circle for the Longhorns. Starting 28 games this season, she has hurled 22 complete contests on her way to a 26-4 record.


In 193 innings of work, she has only allowed 57 hits and nine earned runs. She has displayed pin-point control with only 28 walks and has struck out an astronomical 393 hitters on the season.


Perhaps the most impressive pair of statistics for the hard-throwing left-hander is she holds opponents to a minuscule .090 batting average and has a 0.33 ERA on the season.


Girouard said the Tigers will have their work cut out for them against the Longhorns.


"She's (Osterman) probably the premier pitcher in the country," Girouard said. "They'll (Texas) be playing in their home field and they feel like they got the raw end of the deal last year by being sent to Oklahoma for regionals last year after they had won their conference tournament. I don't expect them to be anything but on fire.


"Against Cat Osterman, the ball is just going to have to have eyes and we just have get hits together."


While the hitters seemed to dominate early in the season, Girouard expects the pitching once again regain its dominance.


"When you get in postseason play you don't see a lot of runs being scored," Girouard said. "Everybody's so up-tight because they know that this is the end of the year. Consequently that is why you always see the pitchers starting to dominate now because this is for all the marbles."


Along with Texas, the rest of the Austin Bracket is tough with Big Ten Champion Northwestern (35-17) grabbing the number two seed.


Arizona State (30-23), the team that denied the Tigers a return trip to Oklahoma City and the Women's College World Series last year is the number three seed.


Southwest Texas State (43-16-1) is the number six seed and Ohio Valley Conference Champion Tennessee Tech (41-14) getting the seventh seed. Texas A&M Corpus-Christi (31-22) rounds out the tournament as the eighth seed.

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