On the run to a championship, a team will likely encounter challenges which are obvious and others which catch the team by surprise. One of those surprise challenges was against Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Trailing by two in the sixth inning, the No.5 Tiger offense erupted for five runs off the Lady Techsters. With two outs, LA Tech chose to intentionally walk Sahvanna Jaquish to load the bases in favor of Amber Serrett. The freshman would draw a walk of her own, plating Constance Quinn. Bailey Landry would single in the next at bat to tie the game, atoning for a run scoring error earlier in the game. The Tiger scoring concluded when Kellsi Kloss hit a bases clearing double putting LSU up three and eventually winning 9-6.
Prior to that sixth inning, the Tigers had competed but a win seemed in doubt. Sydney Smith and Baylee Corbello had each yielded three run innings. The Tigers had twice cut into the LA Tech lead but failed to tie the game on either occasion. In an attempt to stabilize the pitching, Beth Torina deployed Carly Hoover who had just pitched in the early Saturday game against Liberty. The moved paid off as Hoover would pitch three and two thirds innings of scoreless relief, striking out nine, surrendering just a hit and a walk as the Tigers would win 9-6
The relief appearance was just part of an outstanding weekend for Hoover. In the finale against Tennessee Tech, she would log her first career no-hitter, issuing two walks and striking out seven in a five inning, 16-0 run rule LSU win. The early Saturday game versus Liberty saw Hoover pitch the complete five inning game striking out ten allowing just two walks and a hit as the Tigers won 8-0.
That’s 13.2 innings, 26 strikeouts, zero runs, two hits and five walks for the weekend.
LSU’s offense was collectively outstanding on the weekend, winning four of the five games via the run rule. Serrett in particular had a strong series collecting a hit in every game while driving in seven over the weekend. For the Liberty game she was moved into the fifth spot in the lineup, taking Kloss’s usual place. Bianka Bell, Kloss and Jaquish also had big weekends.
Against Louisiana Tech and Tennessee Tech on Sunday, Torina opted to have Serrett at shortstop, her natural position, while moving Bell over to third base. The fact that Torina has upgraded Serrett defensively and in the lineup speaks volumes about how valuable the freshman has become to this team.
The downsides of the weekend: the defense and Allie Walljasper. LSU added three more errors on the season, one of which was by Serrett when she was at shortstop. After this weekend, the Tigers have surrendered 38 runs, 19 of which have been unearned.
Walljasper was noticeably absent from any box scores over the weekend and likely would have started one of the games on Saturday. She was seen with a towel wrapped around her arm and Torina said she wanted to be conservative with the "arm" injury and more would be known in the coming week. This was the weekend for Torina to take precautions with injuries and sitting Walljasper was the right move. It’s unfair to say the Tigers would be in trouble with Hoover pitching so well, but Walljasper is a player the Tigers can’t afford to lose.
The five wins on the weekend gives the Tigers a 15-game winning streak. By almost all factors this team is clicking.
A Tuesday double-header against Longwood keeps the Tigers fresh before SEC play begins with No.4 Alabama coming to Tiger Park next weekend.
A new outfield section of 350 seats has been added to #LSU Tiger Park. Tigers host Alabama next wknd. @LSUsoftball pic.twitter.com/r1gBNrBljS— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) March 6, 2016