USF softball: Expect pitchers' duel vs. LSU
Quick scouting report before today's USF softball game vs. LSU in the College World Series in Oklahoma City -- loser is eliminated, winner advances to tonight's game against top-seeded California, which lost to Oklahoma last night.
Facing LSU should be much like what USF had in its Super Regional against Hofstra -- an opponent with dominant pitching but not nearly as threatening a lineup as Oklahoma, which beat the Bulls in their CWS opener here Thursday.
The name to know is LSU pitcher Rachele Fico, who entered the week leading the nation in ERA at 0.92. Her strikeout-walk numbers aren't as dominant as USF's Sara Nevins -- she has 219 strikeouts and 81 walks, but does have 13 shutouts on the season, holding opposing hitters to a .179 batting average.
LSU gave up a total of one run in its three regional wins, then gave up two runs in its two Super Regional wins -- its loss there was a 1-1 game against Missouri for 11 innings, with No. 2 pitcher Brittany Mack throwing all 12 innings in a 5-1 loss. Mack isn't bad either -- 15-12, 2.24 ERA, with 193 strikeouts against 56 walks.
Where LSU surprises you is its offenes -- the Tigers are among the final eight teams remaining in Division I softball, and they've done that despite ranking 267th out of 283 teams in batting average, hitting just .221 as a team. They rank 262nd in home runs with just 13 this season, half as many as USF (27) and an eighth of what Oklahoma has with 96. They score 3.29 runs per game, which ranks 218th; USF averages 3.97 runs, which ranks 148th.
So there aren't a ton batters to fear, as was the case with Oklahoma -- LSU's top hitter is Ashley Langoni, who is hitting .271 with six home runs and 31 RBIs. The team's best speed is leadoff hitter A.J. Andrews -- a freshman from Countryside -- who is hitting just .223 but has 15 steals, presenting a threat one she's on base. Defensively, they're comparable to USF, with 63 errors on the season compared to 57 for the Bulls.
So expect a low-scoring, intense game like what the Bulls had in Tampa last weekend against Hofstra's Olivia Galati. LSU and USF are the only unseeded teams in the field, and like the Bulls, the current Tigers hadn't played in the CWS before this week. The game could easily come down to a single clutch hit with runners in scoring position, a single defensive miscue, a single pitching mistake. We'll be live-blogging throughout the game as well, so please join us ...