In what has been a spectacular sophomore season, Santa Fe alum Shelbi Sunseri and her LSU Tigers now find themselves in the Super Regionals round of the NCAA Division I Softball Championship tournament.

LSU will look to move onto the Women’s College World Series by winning a three-game series against Minnesota. All three games will be hosted by Minnesota with Game 1 at 4 p.m. Friday, Game 2 at 5 p.m. Saturday and Game 3 at 3 p.m. Sunday. Game 1 will air on ESPNU, Game 2 on ESPN2 and Game 3 on ESPN.

“It’s another chance to enjoy every moment with my teammates,” Sunseri said. “We have a great group of seniors, and we’re taking it day-by-day, practice-by-practice. This is one of the last times we could possibly play with these exact girls. I’m ready to see what else is in store for this team.”

The Tigers booked their ticket to the Super Regionals by winning a three-game series against Texas Tech, during which Sunseri pitched all 13 innings of a 5-4 extra-innings win in Game 1 of the series.

“It was exciting, for sure,” Sunseri said. “The biggest thing was slowing down the game and that was what coach kept reminding me to do. There was a whole bunch of adrenaline with our fans being so excited and being so supportive and it being so loud at Tiger Park.”

Knowing she was in line for a larger role on the team after a solid freshman season, Sunseri said she focused on separating the pitching side of her game from the hitting side in the offseason and sharpening her mechanics for each side, and came into the new year with a mindset of staying true to herself, being more of a team leader and doing whatever she needed to do for the betterment of the team.

“I really worked on my mindset a lot, just the mental aspect of the game, slowing the game down and focusing on the routine and the process that I do before I make a pitch or before I step into the box,” Sunseri said. “Being able to slow the game down and process it in a different way and just taking it one pitch at a time and one moment at a time has helped a lot.”

Also helping Sunseri emerge as an even more standout player on the team this season was an injury-free campaign. In her freshman season, Sunseri missed a significant portion of LSU’s games early in the year with an injury.

“It really just gave me the ability to do more, work more and just put more into it — not having to worry about limiting myself because of an injury,” Sunseri said.

Much like her days playing for the Lady Indians, Sunseri has led her LSU team with both her arm and her bat this season, as she has started in all 58 games in which she has appeared for the Tigers.

In the batter’s box, Sunseri is tied for the team lead in home runs with 17, leads the team in RBIs with 60 and has the fourth-best batting average on the team, hitting an impressive .353.

Batting in 22 more games than she did last year, Sunseri has improved leaps and bounds on the .261 average, 14 RBIs and seven home runs she posted last year.

In the circle, Sunseri has the team’s best ERA among the regular rotation of pitchers at 2.15, and leads the team in strikeouts with 84, in innings pitched with 133.2 and in total appearances with 30, starting the game in 18 of those outings with 12 complete games (also a team-high). Sunseri leads the team in saves with five and is tied for most wins with 13.

Sunseri had much more of a pitching workload than she did last year, in which she had five appearances (two starts) with a 1-0 record, 3.68 ERA, one complete game, 13.1 innings pitched and six strikeouts.

Sunseri has also been able to positively represent her hometown this season following the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School and said that both the community back home as well as the LSU community in Baton Rouge, La. have been very supportive.

“It’s been emotional,” Sunseri said. “So many people have reached out and have been so supportive. … It’s been a great feeling to represent where I’m from and stay true to who I am.”

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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