LSU softball falls to Arizona in win-or-go-home NCAA regional game

TUCSON, Ariz. — For seven innings in the first of LSU’s two games against Arizona in the NCAA softball tournament Sunday, Baylee Corbello put the Wildcats’ vaunted offense on mute.

When called upon in the second game, she couldn’t stop the noise.

LSU silenced Arizona in the first game but could not prolong the success, and the Wildcats ended the Tigers’ season with a 13-5, five-inning win in the decisive game of the Tucson regional at Hillenbrand Stadium.

Corbello was masterful against power-hitting Arizona (44-14) in the first game, a 5-1 LSU win, holding it to one hit in the first five innings and three total. But when called upon later in the day, she ran out of gas. The Wildcats scored multiple runs in all five of their innings as Corbello inched toward 500 pitches for the weekend.

“They are a fantastic offense, one of the best we’ve seen,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We have some great offenses in the SEC, and I think our hope was to stick with them. We did for as long as we could, but we ran out of gas a little bit. To be able to do it multiple times, that’s tough.”

The Wildcats chased LSU starter Kelsee Selman after seven batters as they built a 2-0 lead after a leadoff home run by Hallie Wilson and a Mo Mercado RBI single before Torina turned it over to Corbello. Arizona’s Courtney Rodriguez nailed Corbello’s fifth pitch for an RBI single, and it didn’t get much better from there for LSU.

The Wildcats kept their foot on the gas, scoring two runs apiece in the second and third innings before a four-run fourth put them in mercy-rule territory.

LSU (38-24) nearly avoided an early exit with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth — the Tigers’ only early scoring came on a pair of third-inning home runs from Sahvanna Jaquish and Tammy Wray — but a Mercado two-run homer clinched the win for Arizona’s Shelby Babcock.

“I’m really thrilled for Babcock,” Arizona coach Mike Candrea said of his senior, who was thrust into the No. 2 spot in the rotation after a season-ending injury to the Wildcats’ Kenzie Fowler. “She’s been waiting for a long time for that opportunity.”

Babcock allowed six hits and five runs, but LSU was unable to regain the magic that got it to the decisive game of the regional in the first place.

The Tigers advanced to Sunday’s play after scoring seven runs in the top of the seventh inning Saturday night to cap a come-from-behind, 8-3 win over Boston University.

LSU’s offense kept up the pace early Sunday against Arizona as Bianka Bell broke a scoreless tie in the third inning of the first game with her third home run in three days and 14th of the season.

Allison Falcon added another run for the Tigers in the fourth inning on an A.J. Andrews groundout, and Jaquish made it 3-0 with a solo home run to lead off the fifth. LSU added two more runs in the sixth on RBI singles by Bailey Landry and Bell.

Corbello led the way in that first game, dominating the Arizona lineup much of the way.

Facing the top offense in the country, playing in its own friendly confines, Corbello wasn’t always perfect, but she was evasive enough to shut down a Wildcats offense that leads the nation in runs and home runs and ranks second in batting average.

Corbello held Arizona to one hit through five innings and just three overall — though she dealt nine walks — in handing the Wildcats just their third home loss of the year while setting the stage for the regional-deciding showdown that followed.

“We’ve not asked her to be in that situation at any point this year,” Torina said. “To ask a freshman to carry that kind of load is a lot. She did everything she could do for us. We just asked her to give us a chance, and I think she did all she could.”