Lady Tigers Win SEC Tourney

For the fifth time in the last nine seasons, the LSU softball team won the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship, earning a 1-0 win over Florida in nine innings on Saturday afternoon at Jane B. Moore Field.

For the fifth time in the last nine seasons, the LSU softball team won the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship, earning a 1-0 win over Florida in nine innings on Saturday afternoon at Jane B. Moore Field.

With the win, the fifth-ranked Tigers earn the SEC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will learn their draw on Sunday afternoon. The win pushed LSU to 52-10 on the season, with a pair of extra-inning wins in the tournament. Florida dropped to 46-20 overall and has now fallen to the Tigers in 11 consecutive meetings.

"Everybody got their money's worth today," said LSU head coach Yvette Girouard. "This never gets old, and we never take it for granted."

LSU placed four on the SEC All-Tournament team, including Most Valuable Player Dani Hofer. In addition, Leslie Klein, Rachel Mitchell and Shannon Stein earned All-Tournament honors for the Tigers.

"Dani was tremendous to come in and shut them down," said Girouard. "I know it means something to her being a Florida girl, so I am happy for her."

Back-to-back doubles in the top of the ninth inning gave LSU the one-run win. Rachel Mitchell, who led the Tigers at the plate for the week at .545 with three doubles, a home run and an RBI, hit a ball off the wall in left field and just got to second on what was a close play. Leslie Klein broke the LSU single-season doubles record to drive in Mitchell for the only run of the game. Klein now has 21 doubles for the season, topping the 20 hit by Ashlee Ducote in 1999.

"We keep talking about living in the present, and that's what Klein and Mitchell did," said Girouard. "That's what you want to see in your hitters."

Dani Hofer earned the win in relief to improve to 23-2 on the season. The MVP came on with two on in the bottom of the fifth and allowed only one hits and one walk with nine strikeouts over the final four and two-thirds. Emily Turner started and went four and a third innings, scattering four hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

"(Florida pitcher) Stacey Nelson has improved greatly," said Girouard. "She had a fabulous tournament, but I will credit my two pitchers.  When we split them up on this last day, it seems to be working."

Florida had at least one base runner on in each of the first five innings, but could not push a runner all the way to third. The Gators stranded eight, including three in scoring position. In the bottom of the seventh, Hofer retired Florida in order, all three by strikeout, for the first 1-2-3 inning for the Gators.

After a leadoff single by Jazz Jackson to start the game, LSU did not have hit until the eighth inning. The Tigers had one reach on a fielder's choice in the top of the first and one reach after being hit by a pitch in the top of the second, as Stacey Nelson faced the minimum through six and retired 16 straight from the second through the seventh.

With two outs in the seventh, Leslie Klein drew a full-count walk. Killian Roessner was then hit by a pitch to put the first runner in scoring position for LSU in the game. Unfortunately, Shannon Stein struck out to end the inning.

Florida got a leadoff bloop single by Kristina Hilberth to start the bottom half of the inning. Hilberth was sacrificed to second before Ashley Harris came in to pinch run for her. Hofer then got a strikeout swinging by Lauren Roussell and a ground out by Ali Gardiner to end the inning.

Vanessa Soto was hit by a pitch to lead off the top of the eight. With two outs, it looked as though the Tigers would get on the scoreboard. Andrea Smith drove a 2-2 pitch deep into left field, but it was caught on the wall by Gator left fielder Brooke Johnson. After an infield single deep in the hole at shortstop by Quinlan Duhon, the first hit for the Tigers since the first inning, Jackson grounded out to third to end the inning.

Hofer pitched around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth. After issuing the free pass to Melissa Zick, the hero of Florida's 1-0 win over No. 1 Tennessee on Friday, Hofer retired the next three by strikeout to get out of the inning.

In the top of the ninth, Rachel Mitchell doubled off the wall in left field, about two feet shy of a home run on the 10-foot fence. Klein then came through with the school record for doubles in a single season as she nailed a ball to right center that easily scored Mitchell. The run allowed by Nelson ended a 29-inning scoreless streak for the Gator pitcher.

In the bottom half of the ninth, Hofer threw three-straight balls to Corrie Brooks, before coming back to strike her out looking. After a fly ball to shallow left field was caught by Jackson for the second out, Kim Waleszonia grounded out to second to end the game.

Nelson went the whole way for Florida, pitching every inning for the Gators in the tournament. She allowed the lone run to the Tigers on five hits with a walk and nine strikeouts in nine innings to fall to 30-13 on the season.

Having participated in all 11 conference tournaments, LSU now owns five tournament titles – 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2007 – the most of any team in the conference. The Tigers are 33-11 in SEC Tournament play all-time, the best winning percentage of any team in the league. In addition, LSU has advanced to the tournament championship game in eight of the last nine seasons, the most of any in the conference.

The NCAA will announce the Regional field on Sunday on ESPNews between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Last season, the Tigers swept through the regional in Baton Rouge, before falling 2-1 at eventual national champion Arizona. With the automatic bid, LSU will be making its ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Women's College World Series twice, the last time coming seven outs away from the national championship game in 2004.

LSU         000          000          001          -               1              5              0
Florida     000          000          000          -               0              5              0

Emily Turner, Dani Hofer (5) and Killian Roessner. Stacey Nelson and Kristina Hilberth. WP – Hofer (23-2). LP – Nelson (30-13).  S – None. T – 2:48. A – 798.

2007 SEC All-Tournament Team
- Dani Hofer, LSU
P- Stacey Nelson, Florida
P- Dani Hofer, LSU
C- McKenna Hughes, South Carolina
IF- Melissa Zick, Florida
IF- Shannon Stein, LSU
IF- Kellie Eubanks, Alabama
IF- Kim Waleszonia, Florida
OF- Lindsay Schutzler, Tennessee
OF- Rachel Mitchell, LSU
OF- Leslie Klein, LSU
DP- Tiffany Huff, Tennessee

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