Arizona softball holds off LSU, reaches regional final

Wildcats pull out wild 9-8 win over Tigers in homer-filled NCAA tournament contest.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- An infrequent 5-3-6 double play to end the game helped Arizona overcome another late charge by LSU for a 9-8 win in an NCAA tournament nail-biter Saturday, putting the Wildcats in Sunday's regional championship game.

Arizona first baseman Hallie Wilson, whose two home runs and six RBI led the Cats at the plate, took a throw from third baseman Lauren Young and then fired to shortstop Kellie Fox at third to nail Sandra Simmons, who represented the game's tying run, for the third and final out of the seventh inning.

Arizona (43-13) now has a leg up in the regional tournament, with the winner of Saturday night's elimination matchup having to beat the Wildcats twice Sunday to move on.

LSU (36-23) will play the winner of the Boston-Louisville game in the region's second elimination game Saturday night.

Arizona's Estela Pinon threw her ninth complete game to improve to 19-7, but not without some drama. She gave up eight hits, walked four, hit two batters and struck out four. All the runs were earned.

LSU's Baylee Corbello (18-9) took the loss in her 23rd complete game. She also was not in top form, allowing 10 hits, hitting a batter, walking seven and striking out three.

The Tigers had a runner in scoring position in the first after A.J. Andrews led off the game with a single and later stole second, her 36th steal of the year. But Pinon got a foul popup from Bianka Bell to strand the runner.

The Cats started similarly, getting a leadoff single by Hallie Wilson. A sac bunt by Kelsey Rodriguez moved her to second, and one out later, Corbello hit Chelsea Goodacre with a pitch to put two aboard. But Corbello then struck out Katiyana Mauga to strand a pair. 

Arizona got on the board first with a two-out rally and a long ball in the second. 

Courtney Rodriguez singled up the middle and Chelsea Suitos singled off the glove of third baseman Tammy Wray to put two on, and Hallie Wilson then drove the first pitch she aw deep to left-center, where it hit off the top of the wall and Andrews' glove. The ball caromed about 100 feet toward the left-field line, allowing Wilson to come all the way around for an inside-the-park home run, her 14th homer of the year. 

Kelsey Rodriguez hit the very next pitch over the fence in left-center for a 4-0 lead and her eighth homer of the year.

LSU responded quickly, as Wray ripped a liner over the left-field fence to open the third to make it 4-1. Bailey Landry then pulled a double down the line in left. Two outs later, after Jaquish drew a walk to put two on, Bell slugged her 13th home run of the season to knot the score at 4-4.

Each team had two runners on base with one out in the fourth inning, but first Pinon and then Corbello pitched out of the jam. Pinon also walked two with one out in the fifth but struck out a pair to end that threat.

Corbello walked two in the bottom of the inning, and her walks proved costly. With two on, Wilson came through with another two-out home run, this one to straightaway right, to put the Wildcats ahead 7-4. The rally kept going with a single by Kelsey Rodriguez, a double by Kellie Fox to move both into scoring position and a two-run single by Goodacre, who was thrown out trying for a two-base hit.

Pinon retired the first two batters in the sixth, but Landry then socked her second homer of the year to left to make it 9-5.

In the seventh, Pinon issued a leadoff walk to Jacee Blades and an infield single to Jaquish and then hit Bell to load the bases. Kellsi Kloss' grounder drove in two when pinch runner Alex Boulet ran through a coach's stop sign and beat a throw to the plate to cut Arizona's lead to 9-7.

A single by Sandra Simmons then drove in Bell to make it 9-8, but Allison Falcon's grounder to third started the game-clinching double play, with Young looking Simmons back long enough to give Wilson a chance on the return throw.