PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Three of the four BIG EAST teams to make the NCAA Softball Championship opened tournament play Friday as Syracuse shocked No. 22/20 LSU 3-0 in 11 innings in College Station, Texas and regional host Louisville pulled out a close one against Illinois-Chicago, winning 5-2 in the 9th inning. No. 19/24 Notre Dame dropped to the losers' bracket with an 8-0 decision against No. 21/23 Kentucky in Ann Arbor, Mich., while DePaul's contest against Indiana was pushed back until Saturday due to rain the Columbia, Mo., area.
Syracuse junior Lacey Kohl hit a three-run home run in the top of the 11th inning to give SU (45-11) its first NCAA Tournament win in program history with a 3-0 victory over No. 22/20 LSU Friday at Aggie Softball Stadium. Junior pitcher Jenna Caira struck out 13 batters in the circle for SU to record her third consecutive shutout and extend the Syracuse winning-streak to 15 games. The Orange face No. 17/18 Texas A&M Saturday at 2 p.m. (ET).
Despite being scoreless after seven innings, Louisville (37-28) and UIC knotted things up again in the eighth inning, each plating a pair of runs. The Cardinals held the Flames in the top of the ninth as UIC batters grounded out, flew out and struck out. In the bottom of the ninth, back-to-back singles put UofL in scoring position. With one out Cardinal senior Chelsea Bemis blasted a three-run shot over the centerfield fence, giving Louisville the 5-2 win. The walk-off home run was Bemis' 12th round tripper of the 2011 campaign.
Kentucky pitcher Chanda Bell limited to the Irish (445-10) to a pair of hits, while leading the Wildcats to an 8-0, five-inning win over Notre Dame to open the NCAA Tournament at Michigan's Alumni Field. Bell got the job done, issuing just one walk and not striking out a single Irish batter.
The Irish (45-10) dropped back-to-back games for the third time on the season and play Western Michigan Saturday. The elimination matchup will begin at 2:30 p.m. (ET) and will be televised live on ESPN. After losing in the BIG EAST Championship semifinals by a 6-0 count to Louisville last week, Notre Dame suffered consecutive shutout losses for the first time since the opening weekend of the 2009 season.
Thirty conference champions were awarded automatic qualification to the NCAA Division I Softball Championship, while the remaining slots were filled with at-large bids. Regionals are May 20-22 with the winners advancing to the super regional competition for a best-of-three series, taking place May 26-27, May 27-28 and May 28-29 at eight campus sites. The remaining eight teams move on to the Women's College World Series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City June 2-8.