LSU defeats Texas A&M for regional title
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Brittany Mack put together a masterful pitching performance and the LSU softball team manufactured two runs in the fourth inning en route to a 2-1 victory over No. 8 national seed Texas A&M on Sunday to claim the NCAA College Station Regional championship.
LSU (37-22) punched its first ticket to an NCAA super regional since 2007. The Tigers will travel to future Southeastern Conference member and No. 9 national seed Missouri with game dates and times to be announced.
Mack limited the A&M offense to one run on three hits.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the game today and going to the super regionals,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “Our team played LSU softball by pitching well, playing solid defense and capitalizing on our timely runs sparked by Kailey McCasland’s sacrifice fly. Texas A&M is a great team. We watched them have huge offensive numbers in the other two games. A lot of credit goes to them, and we appreciate them hosting us this weekend. It’s a really exciting day for our program.”
Mack (15-11) registered seven strikeouts against three walks. Mack had six scoreless innings before A&M (41-18) rallied for a run in the seventh.
After Amber Garza scored on a Natalie Villarreal RBI single, Mack regrouped and got Kelsea Orsak to ground out to end the game.
“I knew it was a huge deal for Brittany to avenge her loss from last season to Texas A&M,” Torina said. “I was 100 percent confident, and I didn’t have a doubt about the type of performance I was going to get from her.”
“I kept focusing on this pitch, this batter,” Mack said. “I might have thrown more change-ups last year than I did this year. We definitely had a plan to throw more hard stuff to keep them off balance. We got them with a lot of drops and screws today.”
Said A&M second baseman Natalie Villareal, “She made us chase bad pitches. We weren’t attacking early. Her offspeed pitches had us fooled.”
LSU had six hits, sparked by Ashley Applegate’s 2-for-3 effort with a run scored.
With one out in the fourth, Allison Falcon reached on a fielding error by Garza at third base. Applegate hit a single up the middle followed by a Tammy Wray walk to load the bases.
Pinch hitter Kailey McCasland provided the game’s first run with sacrifice fly into the left centerfield gap to score Falcon.
“I have confidence in Kailey McCasland,” Falcon said. “I knew she would step up and do her job. All I was looking for was anything deep enough that I could tag on. I know I am not the fastest, but I can score on anything that is deep enough. Kailey came through huge for us.”
Dylan Supak legged out an infield single on deep ground ball and a throwing error by A&M shortstop Brittany Walker enabled Applegate to score and push the LSU advantage to 2-0.
“Our kids scratched and clawed for these three regional wins,” Torina said. “That’s what we’ve done all season long. We know teams are going to have a hard time scoring runs against us with our pitching staff. We’re going to find a way to score runs however we can.”
Texas A&M’s All-America pitcher Mel Dumezich was dealt the setback and completed her junior campaign with a 28-13 record. She was touched up for a pair of unearned runs on six hits and notched five strikeouts with a pair of walks.
“A couple of defensive miscues hurt us, and offensively we did not make adjustments at the plate,” A&M coach Jo Evans said. “We chased a lot of pitches out of the zone, and chased the changup a bunch. We couldn’t discipline ourselves enough to drive the ball and put it in play.
“We had way too many strikeouts. We knew coming in that LSU had a great pitching staff. They showed that (Sunday) and (Saturday). They have a deep pitching staff with [Brittany Mack and Rachele Fico]. Those are the kinds of pitchers that you know you have a shot to win every game you play. They did a good job of taking advantage of what we showed them, and gave their team a chance to win this.”