BATON ROUGE – Sophomore right-hander Sydney Smith limited Fairfield to one run on three hits Friday evening to lead No. 18 LSU to a 2-1 victory in Game 2 of the 2017 Baton Rouge Regional at Tiger Park.
LSU improves to 42-18 on the season while Fairfield falls to 26-27.
With the win, LSU has advanced to face UL-Lafayette Saturday at Noon at Tiger Park. Fairfield will take on McNeese in an elimination game Saturday at 2:30 p.m. LSU and McNeese will be the home teams for Games 3 and 4, respectively.
Smith improved to 12-7 on the season after allowing one run on three hits in six innings.
Junior Carley Hoover fired the final inning and entered in the seventh with a runner on first. She earned her first save of the season and walked one.
Fairfield’s Destinee Pallotto suffered the loss after pitching a complete game. She fell to 13-12 after allowing two runs on three hits, walking one and striking out one.
“Well, it’s just how we drew it up,” head coach Beth Torina said. “This time of year, a win’s a win, and Fairfield gave us a great game. Obviously, they’re talented. They’ve been playing well lately. So they came out and did just that here and really gave us a great game. Congratulations to them on a great game. I’m proud of how our team battled. I thought we hit some balls hard, and it didn’t happen to fall in the right places. I thought we attacked it pretty well.”
The Tigers jumped out to the 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Junior Emily Griggs led with a single to the shortstop, and with one out, the centerfielder stole second base and moved to third on a throwing error by the catcher. LSU had runners in scoring position after right fielder Bailey Landry drew a walk and stole second. With two outs, third baseman Shemiah Sanchez sent a ball deep to right field and reached on an error by the right fielder, and Griggs and Landry scored to put LSU ahead.
Catcher Tori Reed reached on a throwing error by the third baseman and moved to second to put a runner in scoring position to lead off the seventh inning. In the next at-bat, first baseman Kristen Ball singled to left field to drive in Reed, cutting the LSU lead to 2-1.
“Sydney (Smith) started out a little slow on the mound but seemed to get stronger and stronger as the game went on,” Torina said. “I was really proud of how she was able to continue to make adjustments throughout. I think that’s hard to do, and that’s something that shows a lot of maturity and really stepped up for us to be able to have a big performance tonight.”
2017 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional – Postgame Quotes
FAIRFIELD VS. LSU – May 19, 2017
LSU – 2, Fairfield – 1
LSU Head Coach Beth Torina
“Well, it’s just how we drew it up. It was — you know, this time of year, a win’s a win, and Fairfield gave us a great game. Obviously, they’re talented. They’ve been playing well lately. So they came out and did just that here and really gave us a great game. Congratulations to them on a great game. I’m proud of how our team battled. I thought we hit some balls hard, and it didn’t happen to fall in the right places. I thought we attacked it pretty well. Sydney (Smith) started out a little slow on the mound but seemed to get stronger and stronger as the game went on. I was really proud of how she was able to continue to make adjustments throughout. I think that’s hard to do, and that’s something that shows a lot of maturity and really stepped up for us to be able to have a big performance tonight.”
Q. Coach, coming into this series, being at home, all the pressures you talked about the other day, do you almost kind of take a deep breath that, okay, this one’s over, now we can kind of get into a rhythm a little bit?
TORINA: I do think it’s huge to have the first one under your belt. I think it’s a tough game. You’re tight. You’re nervous. There are a lot of those factors in it. Once you kind of get going here, once you get rolling, I think it gets a little bit easier. Not that our game tomorrow is easy by any means, but I think getting that first game under your belt is huge.
Q. Emily, what were they doing to keep your guys kind of off base in the box there?
EMILY GRIGGS: You know, they had a great pitcher on the mound tonight. You have to hand it to her for being able to mix in and out, up and down, and just making the adjustments. If somebody hit a good ball the first inning, the second inning she was doing the complete opposite. So I think just having good pitch location and making sure she switches it up was definitely something that made her successful.
Q. Sydney, I know on the box score it shows two errors, but for the most part the defense played really well, especially Shemiah Sanchez at third base. How important is that to you? You talk about it all the time, kind of letting your defense work and making it so that they stay off the base pads.
SYDNEY SMITH: I think any strength for a team is to have great defense. We have one of the best defenses. It’s fun to go out there and pitch and know your defense has your back no matter what. Whether I’m struggling on the mound or not, they’re going to pick me up, and they’re going to do the things to help me. It’s just awesome to have a defense like that.
Q. Beth, the role that Carley’s done now a couple of games, coming in late and being able to shut it down even though she’s not 100 percent. What does it say about her moxie, her character, what she gives you in those situations, and how do you think she approaches it?
BETH TORINA: I thought she looked really solid. I think she’s pretty close to 100 percent. I thought, she looked great tonight. She really threw hard. She’s kind of had that role her entire time she’s been at LSU, just being able to come in and shut it down. Just thought it was a good time for that. Hoping to get a couple of strikeouts out of her right there, but we were able to get a couple of ground balls just right back to her, you know, same thing. But I always like to try to bring her in to try to step up and get that strikeout so we don’t have to have the pressure to play defense right in that moment. She’s great at that. She’s so competitive. She wants that moment. She wants the ball in that moment, and it’s fun to give it to her.
Q. Asking the Louisiana-Lafayette coach about the series or lack of a series on a regular basis between you guys. He said, look, a lot of it’s my fault. I take my fair share of the blame for not having a regular series between LSU and ULL. Is it one that you’d like to see happen again just because the fans love it? They’ll be packed tomorrow for the game.
BETH TORINA: Yeah, I think it will be a great game tomorrow. I think they’re so talented. They are so consistent, and they’re good year in and year out. I think it’s a great contest between the two of us. I know it’s been a while, but I think it’s going to be a great game tomorrow. I think we’re all excited to take the field against them. I think we’re excited to take the field in the atmosphere that will be here tomorrow. It’s so cool for the game of softball. Just imagine what the atmosphere is going to be like. I know it’s going to be great, but it’s neat for the game of softball to see a matchup like this.
Q. This is going to be a regional where you have two loud and present fan bases, I guess. Do you prepare for that? I know they can’t affect your play, but obviously they can get in your ear at times.
EMILY GRIGGS: Absolutely. I think where we’ve played luckily all year in the SEC, the different places we’ve gotten to travel to, that’s really prepared us for this moment. Auburn wasn’t quiet. Tuscaloosa and Knoxville definitely weren’t quiet. So I think all throughout the season playing in the SEC and going to those opponents definitely is going to prepare us for this weekend.
Q. Beth, I know you’re not going to say who you’re throwing tomorrow, but when you’re facing a team with a lot of power like that, like ULL has, does that factor into your decision of who you throw tomorrow? How do you kind of manage that?
BETH TORINA: I think the matchup always factors in. Their offense always factors in no matter who we’re playing. But I’m really confident in our pitching staff as a whole, confident in all four of them. I had zero reservations about putting Sydney out there tonight. I would have zero reservations about putting her out there tomorrow or any of our pitching staff. I’m really confident in all of them. I think, when you have a strong pitching staff like this, the offense doesn’t matter as much because it will match up with somebody somehow. We’ll see as we research them a little bit more tonight and spend the time on what the best matchup is, and that’s who we’ll go with.
Q. Coach, you don’t have a ton of players from Louisiana, so they may not be caught up in the whole rivalry thing, but do you address the outside the lines things that are going to be going on before the game tomorrow?
BETH TORINA: I think we have 8 players from Louisiana. So it is pretty significant, actually, on a team of 21. You know, I think they all understand how good they are. They all understand how talented they are. They’ve been good for a long time. They’ve been in the College World Series. They’ve been in the Regional, the Super Regional. Everybody understands how good they are. It didn’t really matter to us who we drew. As a 2 and 3 and 4 seed in this, we’re going to have to beat somebody to move on. To accomplish our goals, we have to beat a great team. The fact that it’s them, you know, they’re a great team. We understand we have to beat somebody to move on, and that’s our goal.
Q. It’s exciting, you might get some casual softball fans because of the matchup to follow this. Is it exciting for you guys — I guess all of you could answer this really — to be part of a matchup like this, where you have a lot of passion, and it’s not just maybe any other team?
BETH TORINA: Well, I think these guys have been a part of some huge games. Like Emily talked about, a lot of the crowds in the SEC are good, and it makes me think back to the James Madison Super Regional. What an awesome atmosphere for softball, and it wasn’t even for us. The majority of the people were against us. But we all, every single one of us appreciated how cool it was for the game of softball that that many people came out to support a game like that. So I think we’ll feel the exact same way tomorrow. We’re going to hope and pray the majority of the stands are purple tomorrow and not red, but I think it’s going to be a neat atmosphere for softball no matter what happens, and we all appreciate that our game is going. And the fact that we have so many people that want to support the game is awesome for us.
Q. Sydney or Emily, do you guys care to comment on that question?
SYDNEY SMITH: Like she said, it’s cool how softball is growing. I think, no matter what you look at, the more people we have in the stands, the better. The more people that are coming to watch us play and watch us compete, it just shows how much people enjoy softball and how much it’s growing and how much fun watching softball really is.
EMILY GRIGGS: I just think at some point there’s going to be a little girl in the stands that comes to our softball game, and I just hope when she leaves — Coach always says, just hope the crowd says, oh, she plays hard. So I just hope at some point we touch a little girl and she is — falls in love with the game like we all did and just puts that drive in her.
Fairfield Head Coach Julie Brzezinski
“You know, it was a little bittersweet. I think we came out with a lot of intensity. I thought we hung with our pitching. We drove the ball when we needed to drive the ball. Destinee (Pallotto) did an amazing job on the mound, and we hung. We played a great game, yeah, but we would have liked to have that win. That would have been great.”
Q. Coach, did the team kind of exceed your expectations today? I mean, especially the way they played late in that game, really showing a lot of fight and kind of proving that they could hang with LSU throughout.
BRZEZINSKI: Oh, we’ve been fighting for a while. We’ve had some difficulties throughout the season with injuries and everything. So we really have been fighting for a while. So, no, that part did not exceed my expectations. But I did think Des did an amazing job with their batters, and Tori (Reed) calling the game behind the plate. We’ve been doing that all year. I don’t call the pitches. She calls the pitches. She’s been doing a great job, and we think that’s a big part of the game, and that’s what keeps it fun for the kids to be able to do that stuff. I think these two need a lot of credit.
Q. Tori, just talk about the seventh. It got a little interesting there. What were your thoughts, I guess as you scratch across the run and you’re still in this thing?
REED: Right. So it’s going in the seventh, and it’s your last chance to strike. We’re down two. The last thoughts going through your head as a batter, we just need base runners right now. We don’t need to do anything too extravagant. We just need some runners on and keep hoping the rest of the lineup will do the work. You just stay in there with a clear head and just go for it, really.
Q. Destinee, is this one of those deals, if they’re going to let us stay around here in a tight ball game, we’re going to take every opportunity we have to get even?
PALLOTTO: Yeah, I thought we did what it took. We played a great game against a great team. Towards the end, we definitely started to — we hit it hard all throughout the game, and I was very impressed with our offense. I was willing to do my job, and I know they were doing their job. So it’s give and take.
Q. Destinee and Tori, what was the key to approaching LSU’s hitters? Did you all have kind of a strategy? You mentioned that Tori calls pitches. What was kind of, I guess, the tactic to kind of slowing them down and forcing weak contact?
REED: I think Des and I just play our game. We’ve been together for three years now. I know her very well. She knows me very well. We just kind of rely on each other, and you see the batters, you look at their swing, and you go from there. I mean there’s not much more you can do. You just kind of go off that, go off scouting reports, and drill ’em.
Q. How’s the weather for you guys, the humidity and stuff?
PALLOTTO: It’s hot.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, we just came off of our championship where we had jackets on. So it’s a lot different. But I think we got used to it. The 5:30 game time was better than — tomorrow will probably be tough with a 2:30 game time. But once you get into it, you don’t really think about it anymore. You just play the game.
Q. Coach, you talked about getting into it. I saw a lot of your fans with the “Geaux Stags” shirt. How cool is that for them to travel and get a little local flavor too?
BRZEZINSKI: It’s great. One of our coaches is from New Orleans. She and her family made up those shirts knowing we want to show respect to the area that we’re at but also root for the Stags.
Q. Coach, I don’t know if you talked to your right fielder about the play in the first. Did the sun factor into that at all, do you know, or was that just a missed play?
BRZEZINSKI: It could have been a little sun, a little wind, a little nerves. Who knows? That’s part of the game, and we move on. We still fought the rest of the game after that ball, and we picked her up as best we can, and that’s part of the game. That’s what happens.
Q. Coach, going back to Destinee’s performance in the circle, did you feel like you had a good scout on LSU’s hitters? You did a really nice job of limiting their big bats from really hurting you that much. How is that possible?
BRZEZINSKI: You know, I think we tried to feed more off of Des’ strengths as opposed to their weaknesses all the time, if that makes sense. So we went more with that, and like I said, Des has been throwing really well. So we just wanted to keep her rolling, and she did. She threw a great game.
Q. Julie, I’ll turn your attention to McNeese. I guess, what did you observe from that game earlier? I know they were no hit obviously, but potent lineup at the top.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, they have a real strong lineup. They have a lot of speed. Something that we do have to keep them off the bases because, if they do get on the bases, they’re going to try and run a lot. We have to attack. We have to attack offensively, and we have to attack defensively pitching as well. We’re not playing not to lose. We’re playing to win every game. So that’s our mindset.