Tigers fans apparently don’t care if games don’t start until past 11:00 p.m. Each time a LSU runner crossed the plate en route to a 5-3 win over Alabama Saturday night, the gold- and purple-clad loyalists stomped their feet and shook their signs like it was still prime time.
It took a win from the Tigers to survive Elimination Saturday and stay alive in the WCWS. Now they’re faced with taking on the No. 3 Michigan softball team at 3:30 p.m. eastern time Sunday.
“We understand what a quality program (Michigan has), they’re a great team,” said LSU coach Beth Torina. “I know they’re on a huge roll right now, a huge win streak. It would be great to know more about them than to have the short turnaround, but we’ll give it our best shot and do what we can.”
In Michigan coach Carol Hutchins’ own words, senior left-hander Haylie Wagner is pitching the best she has in her entire career. While junior second baseman Sierra Romero has been ignored by opposing pitchers and hasn’t had much of a chance to put up stand-out numbers so far in the World Series, the rest of Michigan’s bats continue to swing well.
Because of Michigan’s overall depth throughout its roster, coming up with a game plan on short hours isn’t an ideal scenario for Torina and her staff.
Double elimination is a blessing and a curse for No. 5 LSU at this point. Were it not for the second-chance format, their season would have wrapped up when they took a 4-0 loss against Florida in LSU’s second World Series matchup.
The Wolverines have not yet lost, meaning the Tigers will have to beat them twice in order to move on to the championship series. Because of the late start, it was close to 1:00 a.m. before LSU clinched a victory over the Crimson Tide, giving them less than 14 hours before first pitch against Michigan. But the Tigers and their fans are acclimated to late games and quick turnarounds.
“We’ve been here before,” Torina said. “We had rain in the regional. We played really late, Friday night, (and) had an 11:00 a.m. start the next day. … (The team) dealt with the adversity really well there, and I think they will do it again here.”
While the Tigers were playing on into the early hours of the morning, Michigan was enjoying a rare tournament off-day. Presumably asleep by the time of the game’s end, Wolverine players and coaches will have the added benefit of rest as well as a cushion.
Because they have not yet lost, Michigan coach Carol Hutchins and her team will still have an opportunity to advance to the championship series if they were to drop the first game against LSU. A second, winner-takes-all game would be played in the evening to decide who would play in the championship.
There’s no doubt that Hutchins wants to take care of business and schedule even more rest time for the Wolverines. But for now, all that is at stake is momentum, and the 27-game win streak that has caught the attention of LSU’s Torina.