OKLAHOMA CITY — The LSU softball team jumped out to a 2-0 advantage, but No. 1 national seed California came back to claim a 5-3 battle as a session one record 8,149 fans gathered Friday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium to open the Women’s College World Series.
LSU (39-24) was making its third WCWS appearance, first since the 2004 season. The 8,149 fans were the most the Tiger softball program has ever played in-front of.
LSU faces off with South Florida (50-13), who dropped a 5-1 decision to No. 4 national seed Oklahoma. The two teams will meet Saturday at 11 a.m. in an elimination contest televised by ESPN2 and ESPN3.com with Pam Ward, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe serving as the broadcast team.
“I thought we started out really aggressive,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I liked how our offense swung the bat today. I think we have to give a lot of credit to Cal and their offense. They were just really tough, and they keep coming at you, one through nine in the lineup.”
LSU’s offense was led by multi-hit efforts from Ashley Applegate and Ashley Langoni. Applegate tallied a season’s best three hits during three plate appearances and scored a run, while Langoni contributed her team-leading 12th multi-hit game this season. The three hits for Applegate allowed her to pass Sara Fitzgerald (2001-04) for 25th place on LSU’s all-time list.
The Tigers struck early for a pair of runs to grab a 2-0 advantage in the second inning. Allison Falcon and Applegate connected for back-to-back hits coupled with a Tammy Wray to fill the bases. That set the stage for the hometown hero, Morgan Russell. The Edmund, Okla., native smacked a 2-2 offering for a two-run single through the right side of the infield.
California (57-6) notched unearned runs during the third and fifth innings. Frani Echavarria platted Cheyenne Cordes on a RBI single after Cordes reached on a throwing error from LSU shortstop Juliana Santos to open the fifth. Then, Echavarria knocked in Jamia Reid on a sacrifice fly to even the tally at 2-2 after five inning of play.
“The only thing I was disappointed in was our defense,” Torina said. “I think our defense has gotten us here and has been the thing that's kept us in it this long. I think if we clean a few things up and make a couple of adjustments, we'll be good to go for the next game.”
The Golden Bears pieced together four consecutive hits with one out during the sixth inning capped by Reid and Britt Vonk RBI singles to snatch a 4-2 edge. Echavarria capped her three RBI outing with a RBI groundout to extend the Cal lead to 5-2.
Cassie Trosclair sparked LSU’s seventh-inning rally with an infield single. She advanced to third base on Andrews and Simone Heyward ground balls that were both bang-bang plays at first base. Langoni delivered a RBI double and allowed the Tigers to send the tying run to the plate.
However, Cal’s Jolene Henderson regrouped to get Juliana Santos to ground out to secure the 5-3 triumph. Henderson moved to 37-2 for the season and scattered three runs on eight hits. She recorded five strikeouts versus three walks and had to grind out 150 pitches versus LSU’s offense.
Rachele Fico, LSU’s newest All-American, was touched up for four runs on five runs during 5.1 innings of work. Only two were earned and two runs surrendered by Fico when was in the circle. Brittany Mack enabled two of Fico’s inherited runners to score in the sixth inning as Fico fell to 20-12 on the season.
“I'm really proud of my offense for coming out, swinging and putting some runs up on the board,” Fico said. “It's disappointing that we weren't able to walk away with the win, but at the end of the day, our offense showed a lot of fight. They scored in multiple innings, and they tried to answer back in the seventh.”
Every LSU postseason game will have live audio and live stats 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.