Arizona softball defeats LSU, advances to Super Regionals
Arizona softball bounced back from its third home loss on Sunday to run rule LSU and punch their ticket to the NCAA Super Regionals.
The Wildcats (44-14) collected the Tucson Regional title by winning the second championship game 13-5 in five innings after losing to LSU (38-24) 5-1 in Sunday’s first game.
“This is what you work for and you live for and to celebrate on your home field is a nice feeling,” UA head coach Mike Candrea said, “but it took a lot of fight and lot of guts, cause LSU’s one of those teams that will just keep coming back at you.”
The Wildcats will travel to No. 6 seed Louisiana-Lafayette (47-8-1) this weekend for the Super Regionals, a best of three series, to play for a chance to return to the Women’s College World Series.
Arizona junior catcher Chelsea Goodacre (77) tries to tag out LSU junior outfielder A.J. Andrews (6) at home plate during the 6th inning of Arizona's 5-1 loss against LSU in game six of the NCAA Tucson Regional at Hillenbrand Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The seventh game of the Tucson Regional saw Arizona defeat LSU 13-5 in five innings to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Freshman infielder Mo Mercado hit a two-run, walk-off home run to mercy rule the Tigers in the fifth inning and send Arizona to its ninth trip to the Super Regionals in the 10 seasons it has been in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats scored multiple runs each inning of the second game after only scoring one run in the first game.
Arizona senior Shelby Babcock (6-0) earned the win after pitching 5.0 innings, giving up five earned runs on six hits and four walks.
“I’m really thrilled for Babcock,” Candrea said. “She’s been waiting for a long time for that opportunity and she took advantage of it and kept us in the ball game but I sure as hell didn’t want that game to go another inning I was so glad to see that walk-off home run.”
Babock regained her composure after giving up two home runs in the third inning.
“I wasn’t going to walk-off that field without a win,” Babcock said.
Junior first baseman Hallie Wilson said Babcock pitched for her fellow seniors.
“I’ve played with Shelby for three years now and I’ve seen her at her best and at her worst and honestly, Shelby had one of the best games I’ve ever seen tonight,” Wilson said. “She pitched from somewhere down deep, she knew it was her last game at Hillenbrand.”
Arizona got 14 hits in the second game and was led by Mercado’s four RBIs. Wilson set the tone early by hitting a home run to lead off the game and went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and one walk.
LSU head coach Beth Torina joked that Wilson was her “Kryptonite.”
“Hats off to her, she’s a great player, she’s one of the best I’ve seen,” Torina said.
Freshman Kelsee Selman made her eighth start of the year at pitcher for LSU in place of freshman Baylee Corbello, who shut down the Wildcats in the first game. Selman only pitched 0.2 innings and gave up three runs on four hits.
Corbello relieved her but didn’t fare much better, giving up 10 earned runs as she threw nearly 500 pitches over the weekend.
“To ask a freshman to carry that kind of a load, I think is a lot,” Torina said. “I think she did all she could for us, I really do.”
In the opening game, Corbello throw a three-hitter as Arizona lost its first game at Hillenbrand Stadium of the season to a team other than No. 1 Oregon.
Arizona’s ace, senior Estela Piñon (19-8) took the loss for Arizona, giving up five up runs. However, Piñon wasn’t helped by the Wildcat offense that stranded 10 base runners.
“I was expecting them to come out today with a little more vengeance than they did in that first game,” Candrea said. “The first game was typical of ‘oh, let’s play and hope to win’ and at this level you can’t do that. You got to throw punches and continue throw punches.”
Mercado said the difference in the two games was the players talking to each other between games about how important the do or die game was.
Arizona has advanced out of a Regional in Tucson every year except 2004, when Louisiana-Lafayette knocked them out.
The Wildcats face the Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette, La. on Friday at 6 p.m. MST on ESPNU. Arizona is 19-3 all-time against ULL, but Candrea said he has been thrown out of every game he’s coached at Lafayette.
“It’s a very, very vicious place,” Candrea said. “The fans are absolutely crazy.”
—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520