OKLAHOMA CITY — Top-seeded California survived and advanced late Thursday afternoon, defeating LSU 5-3. The Golden Bears (57-5) will face Oklahoma on Friday, while LSU (39-24) will play USF in an elimination game on Saturday.

LSU broke the game open in the top of the second inning. After a leadoff slap single from second baseman Allison Falcon, designated player Ashley Applegate followed with a single just past the third baseman’s glove. California’s ace, Jolene Henderson, would then struggle with the strike zone, walking Tammy Wray and Morgan Russell to load the bases.

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Tigers catcher Morgan Russell then roped a 2-2 pitch to right field, scoring Falcon and Applegate for a two-RBI single. Henderson was able to get out of the inning thanks to two fielders choice plays at third base, and a strikeout to end the inning with LSU holding a 2-0 lead.

Cal started a rally of its own in the bottom of the third inning. Shortstop Cheyenne Cordes hustled to force a slightly wayward throw from shortstop, but was erased on a fielders choice from Jamia Reid. Another fielder’s choice set up National Player of the Year finalist Valerie Arioto, who drew a two-out walk. Frani Echavarria, the Bears hottest hitter in postseason play, connected on a single to right to score Britt Vonk and cut LSU’s lead in half after three innings of play.

In the fifth, the top of the order led off for Cal, and left fielder Jamia Reed connected on a slap-hit single to the right side of the infield, taking second base on an errant throw to first.

A sacrifice bunt by Vonk advanced Reed to third base. LSU pitcher Rachele Fico pitched around Arioto, bringing up Echavarria who ripped a ball to the fence in left, plenty deep enough to score Reid on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.

Back-to-back one-out sixth inning doubles from catcher Victoria Jones and Cordes led to a pitching change for LSU, as Brittany Mack came in to face Jamia Reid. Reid connected on a high-bouncing slap single that stayed in the air long enough to score her twin sister Elia, who was pinch-running at third base, and give Cal the 3-2 lead.

Vonk followed with a single to left, plating Cordes for the Bears fourth run, and a ground out to the first baseman by Echavarria plated Jamia Reed to make the score 5-2.

“Well, today was a great game for California,” said Cal head coach Diane Ninemire. “We fell behind early in the game, but Jolene hung tough on the mound for us, and we just really had a great combination of our power, but mostly our short game was the factor today that turned the game for us. It was just a tremendous effort by everyone on our team today to help the success of our program.”

LSU put together a seventh inning rally as pinch hitter Cassie Trosclair led off with a single, advanced a base on each of two subsequent groundouts, and scored on a double to left by left fielder Ashley Langoni.

Jolene Henderson gave up three runs, all earned, on eight hits with five strikeouts in the game. Echavarria accounted for three of the Bears five RBI, finishing 1-for-3 in the game with a sacrifice fly.


• Attendance at the WCWS continues to rise. Today’s first session, including Oklahoma’s 5-1 defeat of USF and Cal’s 5-3 defeat of LSU, saw a session-record 8,149 fans in the stands. The previous Session 1 attendance record was 7,280, set last year.

• LSU senior Morgan Russell’s two-run single in the second inning were her 10th an 11th RBI of the year, but she has collected four RBIs in as many games this postseason.

• Cal is now 3-3 this season when trailing after four innings, and 34-0 when leading after six.