LSU softball finishes season in NCAA Tourney Final 4

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In the end, the LSU softball team just ran out of magic.

The Tigers’ historic season took the team to heights that hadn’t been experienced by the program under coach Beth Torina – a trip to the Final Four of the Women’s College World Series.

But with the score tied at 3-all in the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon’s Semifinals matchup with Michigan, LSU’s historic push came to its close. The Wolverines scored three runs in the bottom-half of that inning to secure a 6-3 victory to end the Tigers’ season.

LSU finished with a 52-14 record and a third-place finish in the 64-team NCAA Tournament. Torina said the finish was disappointing, because of the team’s dreams of winning the national championship.

But she also knows that the 2015 LSU softball season will be remembered for decades to come as a time when a mostly underclassman group came together and put the sport back on the map in Louisiana.

“This was a historic season,” Torina said. “I hope none of my players are hanging their heads today. I think the sadness is not necessarily the way it ended or how it ended, but the fact it had to end because it was so incredibly enjoyable. As their coach, I enjoyed every single minute with them this year. I enjoyed watching them make history.”

LSU was awfully close to finding a way to keep its historic ride alive.

The Tigers entered play Sunday knowing that it had to beat Michigan twice to advance to the College World Series Finals.

With all of the pressure in their dugout, LSU handled the adversity well early on, scoring a run in the second and two in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead.

A two-RBI double by Bailey Landry was the dagger in the two-run fourth inning rally for the Tigers.

But the lead only held up for about 10 minutes.

With the two-run deficit to battle back from, Michigan took advantage of LSU errors in the bottom of the fourth to score two of its own to tie the score at three.

The Wolverines then took control in the sixth, plating three to break the tie and take control of the game for good.

Freshman pitcher Carley Hoover was charged with the loss for LSU after allowing five earned runs in a little more than five innings pitched against the stingy Wolverines offense that won three-straight games in the College World Series.

With the win, Michigan advanced to the Championship Round to take on Florida – the team that sent LSU into the loser’s bracket.

Hoover said it will take a while for her to get over the sting of the Semifinals loss, but added that she couldn’t ask for more out of her freshman season. The pitcher won 18 games for LSU and was the team’s ace all season.

“This experience has been really cool, but my goal wasn’t to just get here. My goal and our goal was to win it,” Hoover said. “Obviously, we fell short. I think I learned a lot being here. It’s a really big stage. It was a whole lot of fun.”

There’s a really good chance that LSU will be back to the Women’s College World Series in the very near future. While most of the teams at the tournament were experienced, senior-laden squads, the Tigers were not.

LSU has just one senior in its regular starting lineup – centerfielder and leadoff hitter A.J. Andrews. The Tigers bring back dynamic sluggers like Landry, All-American shortstop Bianka Bell, third baseman Sahvanna Jaquish and catcher Kellsi Kloss.

In the circle, LSU will also be loaded with Hoover back and also fellow freshman Allie Walljasper, who pitched in several key games throughout the season.

Torina said she knows what she has in her cupboard for next season, and it feels good to be returning so many dynamic players.

But her challenge to the team after the game was to parlay the College World Series success into a strong summer and fall in the weight room. The coach said she told her players to enjoy the 2015 run, but to not take it for granted because future runs in the future are not an entitlement, but are something that must be earned.

“Having the core of your team playing in a game like this (back), being in this setting and being in this scenario, I think is huge going down the road,” Torina said. “Of course, my message to them is that there’s no guarantees. This was a special group. They had great chemistry. They had great leadership. There’s no guarantees for next season. But they definitely have the tools, talent and ability in order to put them back in this spot and to continue to achieve.

“Even more than this.”

The LSU softball team goes through its pregame ritual before taking on Michigan at the Women’s College World Series. The Tigers won two games at the CWS, but fell short, losing 6-3 to Michigan to finish the year third in the country. With a slew of returnees, the Tigers are anxious to road in 2015.