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 Sunday to claim the 2012 NCAA College Station Regional championship.
In the process, LSU (37-22) punched its first ticket to the NCAA Super Regional round since the 2007 season. The Tigers will travel to future SEC rival and No. 9 national seed Missouri.
UPDATE: LSU and Missouri will square off at Columbia's University Field in the best-of-three Super Regional on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CT, then Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., if necessary. All games at the site will be carried live by ESPNU and on the LSU Sports Radio Network (104.9 FM in Baton Rouge).
Mack limited th potent A&M offense (41-18) to one run on three hits. In its other two NCAA College Station Regional contests, the Aggies knocked 10 home runs along with an average of nine runs and 10 hits per game.
"We couldn't be more excited about the game today and going to the super regionals," head 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 excited day for our program."
Mack registered seven strikeouts versus three walks and improved to 15-11 for the season. The senior right-hander navigated her way through six scoreless innings before A&M rallied for a run during the seventh inning.
Amber Garza drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second base on pinch hitter Lindsey Sisk's ground out to third baseman Tammy Wray. She scooted over to third base on a wild pitch. Down to its final strike, Natalie Villarreal laced a RBI single through the middle to draw Texas A&M back to within 2-1.
Mack regrouped and got Kelsea Orsak to ground out five pitches later to secure the final out. The chopped two-hopper was fielded by second baseman Allison Falcon, who flipped the ball over to Heidi Pizer to send the Tigers into a regional championship dog pile right in-front of the pitcher's circle.
"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."
Offensively, LSU pounded out six hits sparked by Ashley Applegate's 2-for-3 effort with a run scored. The Tigers scored both of their runs during a drama-filled fourth inning.
With one out, Falcon reached on a fielding error by Garza at third base. In between an ejection of assistant coach Howard Dobson, Applegate ripped a single up the middle followed by a Tammy Wray walk to load the bases.
Torina turned to her bench and pinch hitter Kailey McCasland provided the game's first run with sacrifice fly into the left centerfield gap to allow Falcon to sprint home.
"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 in the 5-6 hole. A throwing error by A&M shortstop Brittany Walker enabled Applegate to cross the plate 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 Ks against a pair of free passes.
Every LSU postseason game will have live audio and live stats available inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. The games also will be carried live on Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway set to call the action.
Fans can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsu_softball on Twitter.
Softball Postgame Quotes - May 20, 2012
LSU vs. Texas A&M - NCAA College Station Regional
Head Coach Beth Torina
Opening Statement ...
"We played LSU softball today. Pitching and defense is what we pride ourselves on, and we stuck to our game plan. Brittany Mack was phenomenal today. We played solid defense and had some timely hits. That is what we do. 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."
On her assistant coach Howard Dobson being ejected in the fourth inning...
"It sparked us a little bit, but Ashley Applegate had already had a hit in the game to. She was obviously seeing it well. It fired us up and helped us. It was obviously not intentional. I didn't even hear what he said to warrant the ejection. It was definitely not an intentional act to incite our team. None of the coaches on our staff have been ejected this year. I think it was a momentum shift for us.
On the difference for the team this year...
"Playing in the SEC prepared us for this. We faced a gauntlet in April, with three games at Tennessee, three games at Alabama, two games at Florida and three games with Georgia. It was a gauntlet schedule that we went through. Our kids are experienced with seeing good pitching, so they were able to get quality at-bats. We weren't going to see anything that we hadn't seen before. These guys who were here last year, I know it was a big deal to them to avenge that loss. Texas A&M has ended LSU's season the past two years. It was a big deal for our seniors to make sure they took care of them this year and go out the way they want to go out. Our trainer told me last year she almost had to carry Brittany Mack out of the stadium she was so devastated. She said, 'There's no way that happens again.' I was confident in her today. I knew what I was going to get from her for seven innings.
On Kailey McCasland pinch hitting...
"She is a great hitter. She is a freshman, and a really talented. She will be someone to look for in the future of LSU softball. We are very confident in her in a pinch hit situation. She would probably be in our lineup if we had a position to put her in in the field. Our entire team is confident in her; there was no question in anyone's mind that she was the right person to have up with the bases loaded."
Senior Pitcher Brittany Mack
On her performance...
"It was nice to have two days of rest. I didn't have to go into any game situations; I just had to warm up if need be. My shoulder, forearm, elbow, everything was feeling nice and loose. I told myself, 'Don't give them any mistakes. Make them chase."
On throwing her changeup...
"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."
On pitching in the seventh inning...
"I tried to stay focused because I kept picturing a dogpile in my head. I kept focusing on this pitch, this batter. [Amber] Garza made adjustments at the plate. I had been getting her all day with a drop inside. She told herself she wasn't going to swing at it, and that's what she was able to do. After her was the bottom of the lineup, I told myself, 'If I can just get these girls, and don't let the top of the lineup up then we have this."
Sophomore Infielder Allison Falcon
On the approach to hitting today...
"Our hitting approach today was based on winning the game yesterday. We got the win yesterday, so we got to come out here swing big and have fun. We just played LSU softball with no regrets because we knew we already had Texas A&M on their heels."
On scoring the first run of the game and making the last out...
"I have confidence in Kailey McCasland; 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. The final out in the seventh, like Brittany [Mack], I was thinking about the dogpile too. I slowed it down when the ball got to me. It was a great feeling."
NCAA College Station Regional
Friday, May 18
Game 1: LSU def. Texas State, 1-0
Game 2: No. 8 Texas A&M def. Bethune-Cookman, 11-0 (5)
Saturday, May 19
Game 3: LSU def. Texas A&M, 2-0
Game 4: Texas State def. Bethune-Cookman, 5-3
Game 5: Texas A&M def. Texas State, 7-4
Texas State eliminated
Sunday, May 20 - Gates open at 12 p.m.
Game 6: LSU def. Texas A&M, 2-1
Texas A&M eliminated
LSU advances to NCAA Super Regional
NCAA Softball Regional Updates
All Times Central and subject to change
Super Regional pairings are grouped together
* team needed to win twice to advance to Super Regional
(1) California * def. Arkansas, 10-2
(1) California * def. Arkansas, 7-0
(16) Washington def. Harvard *, 4-0
(1) California vs. (16) Washington
(9) Missouri def. Illinois St.*, 2-1
College Station Regional
LSU def. (8) Texas A&M *, 2-1
(9) Missouri vs. LSU
USF def. (5) Florida *, 1-0
Los Angeles Regional
Hofstra def. San Diego St. *, 2-1
USF vs. Hofstra
(13) Arizona def. Notre Dame *, 8-3
(4) Oklahoma def. Oregon St. *, 6-0
(4) Oklahoma vs. (13) Arizona
Syracuse * def. (3) Arizona St., 1-0
(3) Arizona St. def. Syracuse *, 4-0
(14) UL-Lafayette def. Stanford *, 6-2
(3) Arizona St. vs. (14) UL-Lafayette
(11) Oregon def. BYU, 4-1
(6) Texas * def. Northwestern, 4-0
(6) Texas * def. Northwestern, 5-0
(6) Texas vs. (11) Oregon
(7) Tennessee * def. Virginia Tech, 2-1
(7) Tennessee * def. Virginia Tech, 10-2
(10) Georgia def. North Carolina *, 2-1
(7) Tennessee vs. (10) Georgia
Michigan def. (15) Louisville *, 4-0
(2) Alabama def. South Alabama *, 6-0
(2) Alabama vs. Michigan