The Lady Tigers' season comes to an end in the regional

Matt Dunaway

The No. 9 national seed LSU softball team was unable to climb out of the loser's bracket at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional as No. 21 Louisiana-Lafayette picked up a 1-0 victory over the Tigers Sunday at Tiger Park.

LSU (42-16), facing elimination for the second time on the weekend, was unable to get the timely hit against ULL's Jordan Wallace. The sophomore right-hander worked around four hits, four walks and two hit-batters to enable the Cajuns to punch their ticket to the program's third consecutive NCAA Super Regional.

Wallace stranded seven of LSU's 10 base-runners in scoring position and improved to 31-7 on the season.

"Congratulations to ULL," head coach Beth Torina said. "They have a quality team and a quality program. They did a really good job this weekend. They were tough for us. Obviously, this is not what we were expecting. We'll learn a lot from it, and we'll get back to work."

Trailing 1-0, LSU put together its best scoring opportunity during the seventh inning. Simone Heyward worked her way to a one-out walk, while A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases.

On the first pitch of the sequence, Bianka Bell popped out to Wallace in the pitcher's circle. Wallace completed her third shutout of the weekend and got Allison Falcon to strike out for the game's final out.

"If we had the bases loaded again with the season on the line, I would put Bianka Bell at the plate every single day and twice on Sunday," Torina said. "There is not one question in my mind. If I had to put someone at the plate, I would put Bianka Bell there every single time."

ULL (46-13) scored the game's lone run in the first inning. Nerissa Myers knocked a leadoff double off the left centerfield wall on a 3-1 offering. She moved over to third base on Brianna Cherry's fly out to right field and crossed the plate on Sarah Draheim's sharp ground ball that rolled through the legs of Bell at shortstop and into left field.

Rachele Fico was the tough-luck loser and retired the final nine batters she faced. The Connecticut native wrapped up her illustrious career with a 78-43 record and 797 strikeouts. The 797 Ks and 78 wins rank third and fourth, respectively, in program history. It marked the 18th time that Fico received zero runs of support.

"She is one of the bravest people that I know," Torina said. "She is an unbelievable competitor. For that kid to go out there and pitch those two games the way she did and stay focused with her dad going through everything that he is going through as he continues to fight, for her to do that when he is not in such great condition, I cannot imagine what that takes. She is such a special, special competitor."

LSU finished with 40 victories for the 15th time in 17 seasons since softball was reinstated in 1997. It marked the final game in the careers of Fico, Katie Guillory and Lauren Houston for the purple and gold. The Tigers are slated to return 16 letterwinners for the 2014 season.