Lady Tigers coming
off disappointing SEC loss

Few teams are ever happy with their seeding when it comes to postseason play.

Louisiana State has to wonder.

What would have happened if the Lady Tigers had been able to defeat top-seeded Alabama on Sunday in the Southeast Conference championship?

After all, LSU had the higher ranking (No. 12 vs. No. 16) but the Lady Tigers (49-16, 20-9) had to come out of the losers bracket and fell to the Crimson Tide (44-19, 22-8) 3-1, to finish second in the conference.

The Lady Tigers, who finished second in the Western Division, were one of six SEC teams to advance to this week's NCAA tournament. Not surprisingly, the talk yesterday was of how the LSU baseball team failed to win the SEC championship against Auburn.

But if they had beaten rival Alabama ...

"We're still excited," said LSU coach Yvete Girouard yesterday. "It will be good because there are a lot of LSU softball fans who will be able to travel to this regional and that is great for us.

"We will look forward to playing Thursday morning and take things one game at a time."

The Lady Tigers are seeded fourth and will face Western Athletic Conference champion Hawaii (37-18, 17-3) in the opening round of the double-elimination regional hosted by top-seeded Texas in Austin. Game time is 9 a.m. (4 a.m. Hawaii time).

Neither team knows much about the other and has faced no common opponents. But both coaches will likely send their respective aces to the mound in hopes of avoiding the dreaded losers bracket.

Hawaii coach Bob Coolen will start sophomore Melissa Coogan (29-9) against LSU's Kristin Schmidt (32-12). Schmidt was voted the SEC tournament's MVP. It was the second time in the seven-year tourney that the most valuable player was chosen from the losing team in the championship game.

Schmidt went 3-2 in five starts (tying a tournament record) with four complete games. She struck out 32 batters in 33 1/3 innings and allowed 22 hits.

"She just hits her spots and throws in the change-up and then other pitches look that much faster," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "She's a Greg Maddux."

Schmidt was a second-team All-American at Notre Dame in 2001 before transferring to LSU. Last Thursday, she shut out Tennessee in nine innings (1-0) and held Florida to one hit and struck out 11 in the 1-0 victory late Saturday night.

On Sunday, Schmidt ran out of gas. She gave way to Tessa Lynam (16-3) with one out in the fifth inning with LSU leading 3-1.

"I thought she gave it all she had," Girouard said. "I kept asking her to make sure. She told me she wanted the ball before the game began, and that she had to tell me immediately if something was wrong. I think she was running out of gas."

LSU played four consecutive games in just over 24 hours, returning to Plant City Stadium early Sunday morning to face Florida in the loser-out semifinal.

LSU coach Girouard is no stranger to postseason play. The 2002 Louisiana Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee is among the top 10 career leaders in active NCAA Division I wins and winning percentage.

Hawaii is not intimidated by a team from the Bayou State. The Wahine's first WAC championship came some nine days ago in Louisiana when they swept four games from Louisiana Tech in Ruston.

Should Hawaii win its opener, the fifth-seeded Wahine would likely face top-seed and No.3-ranked Texas. The Longhorns are led by sophomore Cat Osterman, a member of the U.S. national team.

Hawaii beat Texas in March, 5-3, in the Kia Classic at Fresno, Calif., but did not face Osterman.

A loss puts the Wahine into Thursday's losers bracket game against the loser of Texas and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

UH Athletics


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