OKLAHOMA CITY — LSU's coach was surprised. The batter was surprised. The USF shortstop who caught the ball was surprised. The three surprising words that ended USF softball's season Saturday?
Infield sacrifice fly.
Freshman A.J. Andrews, a speedy outfielder who graduated from Clearwater's Countryside High, gambled and scored on a bases-loaded pop fly in the sixth to give the Tigers a 1-0 victory that eliminated the Bulls from the College World Series.
"I've been in softball for a long time, seen a lot of things," said LSU coach Beth Torina, who also serves as the third-base coach. "I don't remember if I've ever seen that before. But it was a pretty amazing, gutsy play by A.J. — not me."
With the bases loaded, one out and USF's infield playing in hoping for a force at home or a double play, Allison Falcon's pop fly sent shortstop Kourtney Salvarola toward the outfield. She made the catch with her back facing the plate. Andrews took off, and Salvarola — "pretty shocked" — sent the throw home just wide.
"No, I was not told to go," Andrews said. "(Torina) said, 'Tag,' but I guess that doesn't mean go. But I think because she was facing backward, my instinct is just to try it. It was a really close game. So I knew that it would come down to something really close, like a close play."
Just as LSU won the game with a risky move, USF lost its best chance at a run with a risky move. Ashli Goff led off the third with a walk. She stole second, saw the throw sail into centerfield and saw the throw to third get away.
In a split-second, she took off for home — with no outs and the top of the order up. Pitcher Brittany Mack, who was backing up third, threw home, and Goff was tagged out.
"Ashli got an aggressive baserunning deal. Their catcher made a great play at home plate," USF coach Ken Eriksen said. "That's one of those things that you play and you play and you play. It's a chess game, and somebody's just going to king it.
"They got their break, and they kinged it."