Tigers fall one game short of WCWS

TUCSON, Ariz. -- For the first time in school history, the LSU softball team knocked of the No. 1-ranked team in the polls, defeating Arizona, 3-2, in game two of the best -of-three NCAA Super Regional, but the Tigers could not make it two in a row as the Wildcats won the series in game three, 14-5 in five innings, and earned a bid to the Women's College World Series.

After the 5-0 loss in game one on Friday and the split on Saturday, 15th-seeded LSU concludes the 2006 season at 55-14, recording its eighth 50-win season in 10 years. Arizona, the second overall national seed, moved to 49-11 and will advance to face the winner of the California-Oregon State Super Regional, which was delayed by rain until Sunday with Cal leading 1-0.

"It always hits you in the pit of your stomach when you realize that you are that close," said LSU head coach Yvette Girouard of falling one win shy of the Women's College World Series. "You've got to praise the team. It got out of hand in the second game, but they kept fighting. They fought until the last out.

The Tigers win in the second game of the series marked LSU's first win over a top-ranked team in the program's history and its first win over the Wildcats, which is ranked No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll, in six meetings. The Tigers previous best with a 4-2 win over second-ranked Washington team in 2000. In addition, LSU became just the second team to knock off Arizona at home this season, joining UCLA as the only two teams to defeat the Wildcats in Tucson.

The Tigers became the first program in history to knock off Arizona in a game that could send the Wildcats to the WCWS at home. Arizona was 13-0 in games at Hillenbrand Stadium in World Series clinchers before falling to LSU. The Wildcats were also 17-1 in overall games that could send them to the WCWS entering game two of the series. LSU dropped them to 17-2 in that category.

"I told the players that life is not always fair," said Girouard. "You work hard and you want to see the results, but the one thing that they can definitely do is hold their head up because they refused to just give up. They battled and battled and battled and spilled their guts out there. It wasn't the result they wanted, but everybody kept fighting."

Emily Turner earned a split for the Tigers, earning the win for LSU in the first game before taking the loss in game two. The junior allowed two runs, one earned, on seven hits with three walks and six strikeouts in earning her 14th win over a nationally ranked team this season.

Having allowed just two earned run in two games against the Wildcats, Turner came back to start game three of the series, but could not keep up the momentum after having thrown 258 pitches. She gave up three runs on three hits with a strikeout in an inning of work. She finished her season at 28-9, recording the fourth most single-season wins in LSU history.

It was also the last time on the field for four Tiger seniors. Lauren Castle, Lauren Delahoussaye, Camille Harris and Stephanie Hill played in their final games for LSU. Delahoussaye concluded the doubleheader 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored, knocking in all three runs for the Tigers in the game one win. Castle finished 1-for-5, while Harris scored a run after drawing a walk and Hill was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.

"After the loss last night the players decided that they wanted to have a better showing today and that they were going to go out as a team," said Girouard. "We got out of a bunch of jams in the first game and kept holding on until we scored runs."

Taryne Mowatt took the loss for Arizona in the first game. She allowed three runs, just the fifth time in 26 appearances she allowed three runs in a game, on six hits, also just the fifth time this season she has allowed six hits, with four strikeouts in the complete game effort, falling to 21-5 on the season.

Alicia Hollowell came back to earn the win in the decisive third game, although the Tigers touched the All-American up as bad as any team this season. Hollowell allowed five runs, tying her season high for runs allowed, with four earned runs, also tying her season high. In addition, she walked three, marking just the third time she walked three or more this year, with seven strikeouts, improving to 27-4 on the year.

Arizona had a chance in the top of the first. Caitlin Lowe drew a lead off walk. A sacrifice by Autumn Champion moved Lowe to second. Kristie Fox was then hit by a pitch. With two outs, Jenae Leles drew a walk to load the bases. Turner then struck out Chelsie Mesa for the fifth time in five plate appearances to end the threat.

LSU got out of trouble again in the second inning. Laine Roth led off with a single to left field. A sacrifice bunt by Sam Banister moved Roth to second on a great play by Tiger catch Killian Roessner who picked up the ball after it deflected off of the glove of Stephanie Hill at first and got Roth at first. Adrienne Acton beat out an infield single to second base to put runners on the corners. A ground out by Lowe moved Acton to second. Champion then flew out to left field to end the inning.

The Tigers led off with a single to center field by Leslie Klein in the bottom half of the inning. A sacrifice bunt by Roessner moved Klein to second. On a ground ball up the middle by Hill, pitcher Taryne Mowatt made a leaping play to come down with it and get Klein going to third as Hill reached on the fielder's choice.

Lauren Delahoussaye then smashed a 1-1 pitch about five rows deep into the left field bleachers to get LSU on the board, 2-0. It was the third home run of the season for Delahoussaye and the first since April 2 against South Carolina.

Emily Turner fielded her way out of trouble in the fourth. She walked Roth to lead off the inning. Back-to-back sacrifices moved Roth to third. Lowe then hit a hard ground ball up the middle that Turner was able to snag and throw out Lowe going to first to save a run and preserve her shutout.

In the bottom half of the inning, Delahoussaye came through with her third RBI of the game. Klein led off with a single up the middle. With one out, Klein stole second. With two outs, Delahoussaye poked a single through the left side and advanced to second on the throw as Klein scored from second under the tag of Balko at the plate to give LSU the 3-0 advantage.

Arizona came back to make it interesting in the top of the seventh. With one out, Lowe singled up the middle. On a bunt single by Champion, Lowe advanced to second. A single to left center by Fox scored Lowe from second and sent Champion to third as Fox to second on the throw.

With two outs, Leles reached on a fielding error by Delahoussaye at short on a sharply hit ball that she could not come up with, allowing Champion to score and Fox to move to third. With the tying run at third, Turner got Mesa to fly out to Klein in center to end the game and send the series to the "if necessary" game three.

After a coin toss determined that LSU would remain the home team, Arizona came to the plate first in the second game. With one out, Champion beat out an infield single to third base. Fox then hit the first pitch over the center field fence to give the Wildcats the 2-0 early advantage.

In the top of the second, Arizona got a grand slam by Fox to push its lead. Mesa led off with her first hit of the Super Regional, tripling off the center field wall. Mowatt then caught one off the end of her bat just enough to push drop it into right field, allowing Mesa to score from third.

With two outs and Mowatt on second, Lowe beat out an infield single then stole second. A bunt single by Champion loaded the bases. Fox then hit a grand slam to center field, her second home run of the game, to give the Wildcats the 7-0 advantage.

Arizona added four more in the top of the third. With one out, Mesa singled to left field before Mowatt singled up the middle. On a fielder's choice by Roth, Mowatt was out at second as Mesa advanced to third. Acton then reached on a fielding error by Delahoussaye at shortstop that allowed Mesa to score.

Lowe then singled up the middle and advanced to second on the throw. On the play, Acton moved to third as Roth scored. Champion reached on an infield single off the glove of Dani Hofer in the circle, allowing Acton to score as Lowe moved to third.

Megan Jolly then came on to pitch for Hofer. A single to center field by Fox scored Lowe from third before Balko struck out swinging to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth, LSU got on the board. Soto led off with a single through the left side. After a fielder's choice by Klein got Soto at second, Kristin Hobbs battled but struck out swinging. Hill was then hit by a pitch before Delahoussaye walked to load the bases.

A pinch hit single through the left side by Erika Sluss scored Klein to give the Tigers their first run of the series against Hollowell. On a ball hit to Fox at shortstop by Shannon Stein, Fox could not come up with it, allowing Hill to score from third to give LSU its second run of the inning.

Arizona the runs back and added one more in the top of the fifth. Lowe and Champion led off with singles to start the inning. A single by Fox scored Lowe from second. Fox and Champion moved to second and third on a wild pitch. With one out, Leles singled through the left side, scoring Fox from third as Champion advanced to second.

Tiffany Garcia came on in relief of Jolly in the circle for LSU. Mesa then reached on a fielder's choice as Leles was out at second and Fox scored from third. Mowatt ended the inning with a ground out to second base.

The Tigers would not go down without a fight and battled to the last out of the game. Harris drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Soto then homered to right center to cut the Arizona lead to 14-4. With one out and Klein on first after being hit by a pitch, Hill singled through the left side. A Delahoussaye single to right field scored Klein from second. LSU had the potential run at the plate that could have kept the game going, but could not push the runs across, falling 14-5.

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