LSU softball regional has homegrown flavor

LSU's Rachele Fico pitches against Missouri in Tiger Park on Friday, April 19, 2013. Show caption
LSU's Rachele Fico pitches against Missouri in Tiger Park on Friday, April 19, 2013.

In advancing to the program’s first Women’s College World Series since 2004, the LSU softball team last year traveled to Texas A&M for a regional and then to Missouri for a super regional.

The Tigers will begin their bid for a repeat trip to Oklahoma City this weekend without having to leave home.

LSU was selected as a host site for regional action Sunday night, marking the first time the Tigers have stayed on campus for the regionals since the 2007 season.

LSU (40-14) is the top seed in the Baton Rouge Regional, as well as the nation’s No. 9 seed.

“We love playing at home and love playing in front of our fans,” junior infielder Allison Falcon said. “We’re looking forward to playing in front of our home fans and hopefully getting a lot of support out here.”

The regional at LSU has a homegrown flavor as Louisiana-Lafayette (43-13) and Northwestern State (40-13) join Central Connecticut State (35-13) in the field.

ULL will face Northwestern State in Game 1 at 3 p.m. Friday, followed by LSU-Central Connecticut State three hours later.

The championship round begins at 1 p.m. Sunday with the potential for an “if necessary” game later that day.

The winner of the Baton Rouge Regional advances to face the winner of the Ann Arbor Regional, which features host Michigan as the No. 8 national seed.

Torina said even though the setup is different from what the Tigers faced last year, the mindset of the team going into the postseason is very much the same.

“This one is very different on paper,” Torina said. “But as far as the effort and hard work and the things it takes to win, I think they have a really good understanding of what it takes to get there.”

Behind sophomore pitcher Laura Messina, Central Connecticut State won the Northeast Conference championship for the first time.

Their 35 wins are a school record, the third year in a row the Blue Devils have set a record for wins.

Messina, the winning pitcher in all three of Central Connecticut State’s games at the Northeast Conference tournament, enters the weekend with 239 strikeouts and 12 shutouts for the season, and 19 shutouts and 446 strikeouts for her career. Her 49 career wins are a school record.

Coach Jeff Franquet is in his fourth year coaching the Blue Devils.

“We have quality opponents throughout the regional,” Torina said. “At this point in the year, anybody you face is going to be a real quality opponent.”

Torina said she has not decided whether ace Rachele Fico, a Connecticut native, will pitch for LSU in its regional opener.

The Tigers own the nation’s No. 6 RPI after winning the Southeastern Conference Western Division, but lost to Georgia three times — including once at the SEC tournament — to enter postseason play on a three-game slide.

“We’re really looking forward to working this week and getting back to where we need to be fundamentally and emotionally,” Falcon said.

Torina said she wasn’t concerned that LSU struggled late in the regular season.

After all, the Tigers went 2-8 down the stretch last year.