The LSU softball team fought out of the losers bracket last year in the College Station Regional and appeared on the cusp of forcing host Texas A&M into a winner-take-all second game on the tournament’s final day.
But with the Tigers nursing a 1-0 lead, A&M slugger Meagan May crushed Brittany Mack’s first pitch of the seventh inning for a game-tying homer. The Aggies tacked on two more runs in the ninth, marking the second straight year they ended LSU’s season.
The Tigers will begin play Friday in this year’s NCAA tournament heading down the same road, but looking for a different outcome.
LSU again travels to College Station for regional play, the team learned Sunday night. The Tigers (34-22) will open the four-team regional matched up against Southland Conference champion Texas State (38-15) at 3 p.m. Friday at the Texas A&M Softball Complex.
“I wasn’t a part of it,” LSU coach Beth Torina said of last year’s regional, “but I know there’s a game they’d like to have back — a couple of pitches they’d like to have back. I think they’ll be excited to get another opportunity at it.”
Last year’s loss to A&M marked the final game for legendary coach Yvette Girouard, who left her visor in the third-base coach’s box after the 3-1 defeat.
Although the Tigers aren’t assured of a rematch with the Aggies this year, they likely would have to keep their future Southeastern Conference rival from making a return trip to the super regionals if LSU hopes to reach its first Women’s College World Series since 2004.
Texas A&M (39-16) will face Bethune-Cookman (30-29) in Friday’s other opening-round game. The Aggies are 20-4 this season at home.
The winner of the College Station regional will play the winner of the Columbia regional, where Missouri — another future SEC rival — is the top seed.
“It would be nice to have a replay of what happened last year,” Mack said. “A chance to do it over.”
This marks the third straight season LSU and A&M are in the same regional. The Aggies finished LSU’s season in 2010 at Tiger Park before losing to Louisiana-Lafayette in the championship round.
Mack pitched the final three games of last year’s regional, beating Sacred Heart and Syracuse before losing to A&M on the final day. Rachel Fico threw 11 innings against Syracuse on the regional’s opening day, but got zero run support in a 3-0 loss.
Mack said the Tigers will use last year’s loss in the first game as motivation this time.
Texas State beat Sam Houston State on Saturday to win its second straight Southland tournament.
“We had already played Syracuse (earlier in the 2011 season) and knew we’d beat them,” Mack said. “We were already worried about the next game.”
Playing the Aggies is extra special for Mack, who grew up an hour away in Round Rock and has a sister who graduated from A&M.
She said she had a feeling she’d be headed home for the second straight year, but some of her teammates were expecting a trip to Texas or ULL.
Torina said she was a little surprised by the draw since LSU played at A&M last year.
“I didn’t think they would send us there again,” Torina said, “but they really do try and do it regionally as much as possible.”
LSU makes its 14th NCAA tournament appearance despite closing the regular season with eight losses in 10 games.
The Tigers have gotten the same kind of pitching from Fico and Mack that carried them last year, but the offense again has been a sore spot. LSU dropped a 1-0 decision to Florida in the first game of the SEC tournament on Thursday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. — the latest in a line of shutout losses. One thing working in LSU’s favor is strength of schedule.
Five of the teams the Tigers played in the regular season are among the nation’s top eight seeds. Three of those teams are from the SEC, which sent nine teams to regionals.
“We’ve seen the absolute very best from every conference,” Torina said. “Whatever we’re faced with is going to look a lot like what we’ve already seen or maybe not as much.”