OKLAHOMA CITY — Saturday’s loss to Arizona State at the Women’s College World Series ended the careers of LSU’s seniors. Perhaps falling a step shy of the semifinals wasn’t the best ending possible, but it was darned close.
“I haven’t really cried yet. I’m so happy,” shortstop Juliana Santos said. “I’m so proud of everyone — the team, the coaching staff and the seniors. We did it. It finally happened.
“Your career ends at some point, and why not end it in Oklahoma? We’re on top of the world right now. Yeah, we wish it had ended a little differently, but we couldn’t be happier. I’m so proud to be a Tiger.”
LSU coach Beth Torina echoed those thoughts after the loss, praising a team that recovered from a 2-8 regular-season finish to reach the WCWS via upset wins over No. 8 seed Texas A&M and No. 9 Missouri.
“I couldn’t be much prouder of my team at this time and what they’ve accomplished, especially in the last three weeks, being on the road and winning at A&M and Missouri,” she said.
A large part of that was due to the play of the seniors: Santos, pitcher Brittany Mack, catcher Morgan Russell, left fielder Ashley Langoni, first baseman Heidi Pizer, and designated players Ashley Applegate and Cassie Trosclair.
And that group was able to share its happy ending with an old friend from another dugout as well.
Following their 1-0 win against USF earlier in the day, LSU players huddled up near home plate. It wasn’t to celebrate the fact that they’d staved off elimination for another game, nor was it to begin shifting focus to Arizona State.
It was a group hug with an opponent, because for the Tigers, surviving meant ending a close friend’s career.
USF third baseman Jessica Mouse, the person in the middle of that huddle, played at LSU for three seasons — starting all 114 games in 2009-10 — before missing 2011 with an injury, graduating and transferring to pursue a graduate degree.
“That’s pretty impressive to me,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said of the postgame group hug. “That’s a classy showing. Jess Mouse is leaving the game and LSU was crying. How could you not be proud as an opposing coach of the other team? That was phenomenal.”
Mouse wasn’t part of the postgame news conference, but she gave her thoughts on the moment via Twitter, writing, “That meant the world to me. I love you guys so much and thank you for 4 wonderful years as a Tiger.”
She also received a standing ovation from LSU fans during her first trip to the plate, when she laid down a bunt and reached on a throwing error. In the fifth inning, Mack struck Mouse out to escape a jam with runners at second and third.