BATON ROUGE — Freshman Casey Faile got it done in the circle and at the plate while junior Dani Hofer returned to action after nearly a month as the No. 9 national seed LSU Tigers defeated Mississippi Valley State, 8-0, in five innings in the first round of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional on Friday night at Tiger Park.
With the win, the Tigers (43-17) advance to face Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Delta Devilettes (28-27) will face elimination against East Carolina at 4 p.m. The Raginâ€™ Cajuns defeated the Pirates, 2-1, in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional opening game on Friday afternoon. The winner of the LSU-ULL game will advance directly to the championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m. and have to be defeated twice to not advance to the Super Regionals. The loser will go on to play the winner of the MVSU-ECU game at 7 p.m. on Saturday for the right to advance to the championship game.
â€œFirst game down and a couple more to go,â€ said LSU head coach Yvette Girouard. â€œMississippi Valley has been in this competition numerous times, and we couldnâ€™t get that leadoff batter out. Obviously the competition will be greater tomorrow but this is exactly what I wanted to have happen tonight.â€
Faile earned the win in her first postseason start. She allowed only two singles with a walk while striking out seven in four innings. In addition, she came in to hit for herself in place of Dee Dee Henderson in the bottom of the third. With runners on second and third, Faile came through with a two-RBI single through the left side that scored Erika Sluss and Jazz Jackson to break the scoreless tie.
Hofer came on in relief in the fifth and allowed one hit while striking out the side. The inning of action was her first since the series opener at Tennessee on April 19. It was her first appearance at Tiger Park in the circle since April 13 against Ole Miss.
â€œIâ€™m proud of Casey. She gave us exactly what we wanted and also came up with the big RBI,â€ said Girouard. â€œDani did exactly what we wanted her to do, come in and get her feet wet. She has not thrown the ball in about a month and we want her healthy.â€
For the fifth time in six NCAA Tournament games, Rachel Mitchell sent a ball over the fence. After recording four home runs in five games last season over the NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals, she recorded her fifth homer in NCAA play in the bottom of the third. The two-run shot was the 11th of the season for Mitchell, putting her in the team lead and moving her into a tie with former Tiger All-American Ashlee Ducote for seventh all-time in school history with 23.
â€œOf course Rachel (Mitchell) delivered that postseason bomb that we needed and that we hope will continue,â€ said Girouard.
After pulling ahead 4-0 on the Faile and Mitchell RBIs, LSU put up three more in the bottom of the fourth with two outs. Jessica Mouse singled to left center. She moved to second on an infield single by Jackson. A bloop single just behind second base by Henderson scored Mouse and sent Jackson to second. Henderson and Jackson then scored on a double to right center by Shannon Stein, who was thrown out attempting to stretch it into a triple.
The Tigers then ended the game early with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Mitchell led off with a single to center field. A single up the middle by Ashley Applegate sent Mitchell to third. A ground out by Killian Roessner pushed Applegate to second. Tayl’r Hollis hit a walk-off single up the middle that scored Mitchell for the game winning run.
Mississippi Valley Stateâ€™s leadoff batter Haleigh Eubanks was the Tiger killer for the Devilettes. She was the only Mississippi Valley player to record a hit in the contest as she went a perfect 3-for-3 for the night. The speedy right fielder also stole a pair of bases.
Brittany Franklin took the complete-game loss for the Devilettes to fall to 15-7 on the season. She allowed eight runs on 11 hits with two walks in four and a third innings.
LSU improved to 10-0 in NCAA Tournament opening round games. The Tigers are also 32-18 overall in championship play, recording the fifth-best winning percentage in NCAA Tournament play of any school in softball history. Since the tournament went to the subdivided Regional and Super Regional games in 2005, LSU is undefeated in regional play, going 3-0 over the last two seasons.
MVSU 000 00 – 0 3 1
LSU 004 31 – 8 11 1
Brittany Franklin and Megan Hays. Casey Faile, Dani Hofer (5) and Killian Roessner. WP â€“ Faile (4-1). LP â€“ Franklin (15-7). S â€“ None. HR â€“ Rachel Mitchell. T â€“ 1:30. A â€“ 1114.