#7 LSU Softball Drops Doubleheader to #1 Gators
BATON ROUGE, La. – With the visitors on the ropes in front of a record 3,242 fans at Tiger Park, the No. 7 LSU softball team had multiple chances to put the game away, but 11 stranded runners the Tigers left on base would come back to haunt them in the end as the No. 1 Florida Gators got three runs in the top of the ninth and the home side would not be able to answer to fall 3-0 and drop an SEC series doubleheader Friday at Tiger Park.
For the second consecutive game the Tigers (26-7, 3-5 Southeastern) were able to hold the visiting Gators (32-1, 7-1) to season lows in hits, but would be unable to capitalize on their opportunities to produce runs during the latter half of the contest, as Florida had just one hit through eight innings.
“I thought a lot of things that we worked on this week were better. I thought we played good defense all day today. I thought both pitchers did a nice job and threw nice games,” head coach Beth Torina said. “That (Florida) is a great pitching staff over there. They did what they were supposed to do. They did a good job. We didn’t catch any breaks today. We have to give them a lot of credit. They did a really nice job against our offense.”
Allie Walljasper (4-4) suffered the loss in a valiant effort in the circle, allowing just three runs on three hits with four strikeouts and a walk. Walljasper tossed 111 pitches in the game, as two of Florida’s three hits came in the ninth, as she retired 13 consecutive Florida batters during the heart of the game.
Emily Griggs, Bianka Bell, Elyse Thornhill and Sandra Simmons had all four of LSU’s hits in the game.
“They were great at putting the ball in the correct spots. They are probably one of the best pitching staffs at the country and they just did a good job or knowing where to throw us,” Bell said. “They did a great job of having us on our toes for both games.”
Delanie Gourley exited the game when it was still scoreless, striking out seven but walking eight in her 6.1 innings of work, as Aleshia Ocasio (12-1) wound up with the win as she came on in the seventh and pitched the remaining 2.2 innings, striking out two to earn her second win of the day. Nicole DeWitt’s three-run home run for Florida was the difference, as it was her only hit of the day.
A leadoff single by Simmons to open the bottom of the third gave LSU its second hit of the game, as a sacrifice bunt by Bailey Landry advanced her to second base. Griggs poked a single through the right side of the infield, but Simmons couldn’t beat the throw in from right as she was put out at the plate for the second out, with Griggs moving to second. A walk to Bell put two on, as a big stop at third forced out Griggs at third to end the inning.
With two outs on the board in the bottom of the fourth and runner at first after a fielder’s choice, Thornhill drew a walk to put two on, with Simmons getting hit on the first pitch of her at-bat to load the bases. The Tigers would be unable to capitalize, however, as a strikeout ended the threat for the home side.
A walk to Constance Quinn to open the bottom of the sixth set the table for the Tigers, as Amber Serrett was able to put down the sacrifice bunt to advance her to second. Thornhill dropped a single to the short porch in right to push Quinn up, with Thornhill moving to second on the throw in. However, back-to-back outs ended another LSU rally with the game still scoreless.
After a grounder to open the bottom of the seventh, Bell drew a walk to reach first with Taylor Lockwood coming on to pinch run. Sahvanna Jaquish had a lengthy at-bat, resulting in a walk to put two on for the Tigers. After one pitch to Kloss, Florida made the change in the circle, and the move worked as a grounder to third started a double play to end the inning and send the game to extras.
In the top of the ninth, a hit batter put one on, but a fielder’s choice forced out the lead runner for the first out. A single through the left side put two on, but a fly out to Emily Griggs in center put two outs on the board. However, DeWitt struck with the three-run shot to put Florida up 3-0 to break the scoreless deadlock.
“I think that it is more about our mental state of mind before anything. We have to know that we played right with them today, and that we had them on the ropes both games,” Kellsi Kloss said.
Game 1: Florida 3, LSU 0
LSU earned more hits than No. 1 Florida in the SEC series opener Friday afternoon, but the Tigers stranded seven while the visiting Gators were able to score runs when needed to earn a 3-0 win over LSU to open the doubleheader.
The Tigers (26-6, 3-4 Southeastern) got a strong pitching performance in the circle from Carley Hoover (10-2), setting the new season-high for strikeouts for a pitcher in a league game with 13, allowing three runs, two earned, on four hits in the loss. Hoover is the first pitcher this season to hold Florida under five hits this season.
Florida’s (31-1, 6-1) Aleshia Ocasio (11-1) pitched the shutout by striking out eight and walking three in the win for the Gators, while offensively getting an RBI double and a home run to aid in the effort for the visitors.
With an out in the bottom of the first, Emily Griggs reached on an error at short. After advancing to second after an infield grounder, Sahvanna Jaquish ripped a single to center, as Griggs rounded third and headed home as the throw came in from dead center, putting her out at the plate to end the inning.
“I think those were chances we needed to take considering the number of runs these pitchers allow,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I think we have to push it wherever we can. I am glad we took those chances.”
Kellsi Kloss opened the bottom of the second with a walk, as another to Constance Quinn put two on for LSU in the frame. After a strikeout, Quinn avoided the tag on a ground out to second to put two in scoring position, but a grounder to third on the next play ended the inning.
A walk put a Gator runner on base, but an errant pitch fell in LSU’s favor as it came off the netting behind the plate, allowing Jaquish to throw out the runner at second base for the first out. Hoover came back with another strikeout, but a passed ball after the swing allowed the runner to reach first. A looping single down the left field line resulted in two getting into scoring position, as a wild pitch and a double to left center scored both to put the visitors up 2-0.
LSU got its second hit of the game to open the bottom of the fifth, as Amber Serrett ripped a double down the left field line. After a strikeout, Bailey Landry legged out an infield single to no-man’s land to put runners at the corners, but another strikeout put two outs on the board. Looking to strike, a grounder to third ended the frame with Florida still up by two.
The Tigers nearly looked to get out of the sixth unscathed, but a solo home run with two outs increased Florida’s lead to 3-0 for the final run of the game.
“We played much better defense. I think a lot of the things we worked on this week in practice showed up,” Torina said. “I think we definitely accomplished some of the things we set out to do. I think there are a lot of positives.”
The finale of the series is set for an 11 a.m. first pitch Saturday morning. The game will be televised live on ESPN2 with Mark Neely and Michelle Smith.
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