OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - The LSU softball mantra for the 2012 season has been "Whatever IT Takes," and the Tigers did just that on alert base running from A.J. Andrews to score the game's only run on a sacrifice popup to secure a 1-0 elimination victory over No. 19 South Florida Saturday to open day three of the Women's College World Series in-front of 8,504 fans at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
In the process, LSU (40-24) notched its 40th victory of the season and reached that impressive benchmark for the 14th time in 16 seasons since softball was reinstated in 1997. The 8,504 fans were a Session Four record at the WCWS.
The Tigers advance to face No. 3 national seed Arizona State in another elimination tilt Saturday at 6 p.m. CT televised on ESPN and ESPN3.com. Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe will serve as the broadcast team.
"First, I want to congratulate South Florida on an unbelievable season," head coach Beth Torina said. "That's a program that we pull for when we're not playing against them, and they deserve every bit of success that they had. They do things the right way, and they definitely gave us a tough game today. Any one thing for either team was going to be the deal breaker in it. So luckily, we got the break and it fell our way. Our kids battled. I thought Brittany Mack pitched a great game and kept us in it."
Andrews was hit-by-pitch to start the sixth inning. Two batters later, she advanced to third base on a dropped fly ball by USF centerfielder Janine Richardson. Juliana Santos kept the rally alive and was plunked by a 0-2 pitch to fill the bases.
On a 1-0 offering, Allison Falcon popped up to shortstop Kourtney Salvarola. Since Salvarola was playing drawn in with the bases loaded, Andrews tagged from the third base bag and scampered home. Salvarola's throw was offline, high towards the first base line. That enabled Andrews to slide around the tag attempt head-first safely into home plate.
"I've been in softball for a long time, seen a lot of things," Torina said. "I don't remember if I've ever seen that before, but it was a pretty amazing, gutsy play by A.J. -- not me.
"I was not told to go. She [Coach Torina] said 'Tag,' but I guess that doesn't mean go," Andrews said. "But really, I think, because she was facing backwards, so my instinct is just to try it. It was a really close game. I knew that it would come down to something really close, like a close play. I just wanted to be safe, and I just thought about how I could get safe."
Brittany Mack fired a two-hit shutout and notched eight strikeouts versus four walks to move to 16-12 on the season. It also was Mack's 15th career shutout which vaulted into a seventh-place tie on LSU's all-time list with Brandi Landry (1997-98) and Cody Trahan (2007-10).
Mack stranded multiple South Florida (50-14) base runners during the first and fifth innings to preserve the shutout. The senior right-hander left runners at second and third base during the fifth inning with a strikeout of USF's Jessica Mouse.
"I felt great throughout the entire game, I just had a strong point with my off speed curve breaking a lot," Mack said. "It's something that moves so much, they just really had no idea. Obviously, my defense is always there for me. Even though we may make some kind of error, I know we're going to get out of it no matter what."
Mack also made a spectacular defensive play in the third inning. After a leadoff walk to Ashli Goff, she stole second base. An errant throw by catcher Morgan Russell allowed Goff to scoot over to third base.
Goff sprinted towards home after an overthrow by centerfielder Simone Heyward that ricocheted off the LSU dugout. Mack, backing up the play, picked up the ball, and fired a strike to Russell to gun down Goff at the dish.
Actually, just like a drill that we do [at practice] where we purposely overthrow the bases and back them up," Torina said. "Then, we get you out at home. You can give me the credit, but you can give Brittany the throw."
Every LSU postseason game will have live audio and live stats inside the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net/live. 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.
LSU SOFTBALL POSTGAME NOTES
LSU vs. USF (Women's College World Series Game 7)
June 2, 2012 - ASA Hall of Fame Stadium (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
1. LSU is 40-24 overall this season, 42-27 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 6-5 in WCWS games.
2. The June 2 game date is the latest for the LSU softball program. During LSU's previous two trips to the WCWS there was no super regional round, so the season ended a week earlier.
3. Today's lineup is the 47th different combination in 64 games.
4. LSU is 4-0 all-time against South Florida with all four games coming away from Baton Rouge.
5. LSU has now won 35 of 40 games when scoring first this season.
6. With the win LSU will face Arizona State at 6 p.m. CT today. The last time LSU faced ASU in the postseason was in the 2009 NCAA Tempe Regional when LSU went 1-2 against the Sun Devils.
7. OF Ashley Applegate has reached base safely in 10 of her last 13 games after reaching first on an error in the second inning.
8. OF Simone Heyward was thrown out trying to steal second base in the fourth inning. It marked her first caught stealing of the season. She is now 9-for-10 this year.
9. OF A.J. Andrews scored on a sacrifice fly in the infield by Allison Falcon to give LSU a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
10. INF Allison Falcon picked up her 23rd RBI of the season with a sac fly in the sixth inning. Falcon moved past Juliana Santos for second on the team in RBIs this season.
11. P Brittany Mack picked up her 16th victory this season and second of the postseason. She now has four career postseason wins, two this season.
a. With the shutout victory, Mack moved into a tie with Cody Trahan for seventh place in LSU history with 15 career shutouts.