The Tigers improved to 54-12 on the season after going undefeated at 3-0 in regional play, advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time since the tournament went to its current format last season. The 15th overall national seed, LSU will now face second-seeded Arizona in the super regionals. The dates and times will be announced on Monday, but the Tigers will either play the best two out of three on Friday and Saturday or on Saturday and Sunday.
"We have a challenge ahead of us but you have to love our guts," said LSU head coach Yvette Girouard. "We showed a lot of guts out there this weekend. I truly believe we compete in nationally-ranked conference that has teams in it that can compete for a national championship so I think we will be prepared."
Louisiana-Lafayette completed its season at 50-12 after finishing at 2-2 in regional play. Both Ragin' Cajun losses in the NCAA Regional came at the hands of LSU, who also knocked off ULL, 7-6, on Saturday afternoon in 10 innings. LSU is now 12-3 all-time against its in-state rival and have won five straight over the Cajuns.
In a back-and-forth game, neither team was willing to walk away from the field without a fight. After LSU took the lead in the first on an RBI single by Soto, Louisiana-Lafayette came back to tie it in the top of the second with a solo home run by Ashley Evans. ULL took the lead in the top of the fifth on a two-run home run by Danyele Gomez.
Not to be outdone, the Tigers retook the lead in the bottom half of the inning on a three-run blast by Leslie Klein. The Ragin' Cajuns tied it up again in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Karli Hubbard.
With the game knotted at four in the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers loaded the bases on a hit by pitch by Quinlan Duhon, a walk to Lauren Castle and an intentional walk to Leslie Klein. The intentional walk came after a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Camille Harris moved Duhon and Castle into scoring position.
With one out, Vanessa Soto came up and delivered a fly ball deep enough to left field to score Duhon from third on the sacrifice fly to give LSU the walk-off win. Not only was her seventh sacrifice fly of the season her most memorable, but it also broke the LSU single-season record for sac flies, a record that stood for eight seasons.
"It was kind of like a heavy weight match up between two great teams that didn't want to bend and didn't want to give in," said Girouard. "They (ULL) spilled their guts out on that field all weekend but I am very proud of our Tigers because they weren't going to be denied. We had some primetime players step up in some primetime situations."
A day after earning a 10-inning complete-game win over the Ragin' Cajuns, Emily Turner earned the complete-game in the regional championship game to improve to 27-7 on the season. The junior first-team All-SEC selection allowed four runs on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
"I think Emily did whatever she needed to do all weekend," said Girouard. "I don't think she was as dominant as she has been but she absolutely did what she needed to do."
LSU got on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Lauren Castle led off with a single through the left side. With Dee Dee Henderson running for Castle, Henderson moved to second on an infield ground out by Harris. A sacrifice bunt by Klein sent Henderson to third. Soto then beat out an infield single deep in the hole at shortstop, allowing Henderson to score from third for the 1-0 lead.
Louisiana-Lafayette came back to tie it up in the top of the second. Evans hit a first pitch home run over the left field fence to even the score at one all. It was the 21st home run of the season for Evans, but her first of the postseason.
In the top of the fifth, the Ragin' Cajuns took the lead. With two outs and a runner on first after a leadoff walk to Jessica Lemoine, Gomez hit her 30th home run of the season over the left field fence to give ULL the 3-1 advantage.
LSU wasted no time in responding. Duhon led off with her second hit of the game on a ball poked into right field. Castle then reached on a bunt single. After a fielder's choice by Harris got Duhon going to third, Klein came up with her team-leading ninth home run of the season, sending a 2-0 pitch out to right center field to give the Tigers the 4-3 advantage.
"I was trying to better my previous at bats," said Klein. Coach Girouard and coach (James) DeFeo said to be patient and relax. It was a 2-0 count, a hitter's pitch and I put a good swing on it."
The lead was short-lived as Louisiana-Lafayette came back to tie it up in the top of the sixth. Holly Tankersley led off with a single to right field. With Kelsey Cammaratta running for Tankersley and two outs, Deserea Griffin came in to pinch hit for Lemoine.
Griffin singled to right center, sending Cammaratta to third base. A single to left field by Hubbard scored Cammaratta from third to tie the game at four all.
After LSU went down in order in the bottom of the sixth and the Ragin' Cajuns were retired in order in the top of the seventh, the Tigers had their chance to end the game in the bottom of the seventh and took advantage by playing textbook softball.
Duhon, who finished 2-for-2 in the game, was hit by a 2-2 pitch to lead off the inning. Castle then drew a four-ball walk to put runners at first and second. A well-placed sacrifice bunt by Harris sent Castle and Duhon to second and third. With first base open, ULL elected to intentionally walk Klein to load the bases with one out and set up a force play at the plate.
With the winning run at third, Soto knocked a 1-0 pitch to Gomez in left field that was deep enough for Duhon to tag at third and score without much trouble. After an appeal on the tag at third, the game was officially over as the Tigers celebrated at the plate.
"What I needed was something good enough to send Quinlan in," said Soto. "I took an outside pitch and tried to poke it far away."
Ashley Kirchberg took the complete-game loss to fall to 26-3 on the season, with two of her three losses coming from LSU. She allowed five runs on seven hits with two walks and one strikeout.
The Tigers will now face Arizona, who also swept through its regional undefeated. The Wildcats defeated Marist, 9-0, in six innings to open regional play. They then knocked off Ohio State, 6-3, before defeating Auburn, 4-2, to earn a berth in the NCAA Super Regionals. Arizona is 47-9 on the season and has won 13 in a row after an 8-2 loss to UCLA on April 28.