OKLAHOMA CITY — Auburn was the highest-scoring team in the country when it went to Tiger Park to play LSU in the final series of the regular season four weeks ago.
In fact, both sets of Tigers have been strong offensive teams this season, but you couldn’t tell it by that series.
Auburn’s pitching was slightly more dominant than LSU’s as the visiting Tigers won the first two games: 2-1 and 1-0. On Sunday, the home Tigers hitters broke out in a 7-1 victory. So Auburn took the series despite being outscored 8-4.
“It was very different than how I thought it would go,” LSU coach Beth Torina said Wednesday. “I don’t think it was at all what either team expected. It lacked offense at times, and both teams are offensive teams.”
Torina said she doesn’t expect the runs to be as hard to come by when the teams meet again in the opening round of the Women’s College World Series at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“The ball definitely carries here,” Torina said after the Tigers afternoon workout.
LSU got three excellent complete-game victories in the regular-season series. Carley Hoover, the presumed starter Thursday, lost the opener despite allowing just three hits and two runs. She won the finale after allowing five hits and one run and tying her season high with 12 strikeouts.
“Tiger Park is definitely a place where home runs come to die,” Hoover said. “Even though the dimensions are pretty similar (here), the wind’s a little different, the air’s a little different.
“The ball’s going to carry a lot easier, so I think it’s important for me and the rest of the pitching staff to be aware of that and not leave anything (over the heart of the plate). Our usual outs are not going to be usual outs here.”
Allie Walljasper knows how big an impact one bad pitch can have. In the middle game against Auburn, she allowed just one hit, but it was a home run by Haley Fagan that provided the game’s only run.
“They’re a big hitting team,” Walljasper said. “I know I have to throw good strikes, not bad strikes.”
Marcy Harper started the first and third games for Auburn, allowing four runs in 10.2 innings and getting a win and a loss. Lexi Davis won the middle game after pitching five scoreless innings.
“I think Beth and I would both agree that the first two games were uncharacteristic, because there wasn’t a whole lot of offense, and both teams have been known for our offense,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “Then the third game, her offense came out and ours was still kind of hiding somewhere.”
When LSU’s offense came out, it did so in a big way, getting 10 hits in the finale, one more than Auburn had all weekend.
Bianka Bell and Sandra Simmons drove in two runs each; and Sahvanna Jaquish, Kellsi Kloss and Bailey Landry drove in one apiece.
“We’re two well-matched teams,” Torina said. “If we played 100 times, we’d probably have a pretty tight record at the end of it.”
Since they last met, both teams have played eight games: Auburn has scored 48 runs, and LSU has scored 45.
“You have to have confidence,” center fielder A.J. Andrews said. “That’s the key here. The team that has confidence and doesn’t second guess itself will probably be the team that’s going to win.”
LSU seems to have bolstered its confidence while winning three consecutive elimination games to capture the Baton Rouge regional, then outscoring Arizona 18-5 to sweep the Baton Rouge super regional.
“We’re hot right now, and all that matters is being hot at the right time,” Hoover said. “Right now is the perfect time to be hot; and lately we’ve been hot, so that’s a good thing.”
Torina said the players had the right balance of excitement and focus as they worked out Wednesday. The players said they’re curious to see what the stadium will look like with thousands of spectators in it.
Kloss said she “was in awe” when she first walked into the stadium, but “There’s no confusion about why we’re here.”
“We’re here to win a national championship,” Hoover said. “I think anything less than that would be a disappointment.
“We’re not here to tour OKC, we’re not here to buy merchandise. The national championship T-shirt is the only T-shirt I want.”