LSU picked up two much needed victories against Mississippi State over the weekend, to secure just its third series victory in SEC play.
Friday’s 7-2 loss had all the elements of what has doomed LSU of late. Carley Hoover was surprisingly bad against the worst offensive team in the SEC, surrendering six earned runs failing and failing to record an out in the fourth inning, allowing more two runs to score. The Tiger offense was held to just two runs as the combination of Bianka Bell, Savhanna Jaquish and Kellsi Kloss combined to reach base just twice. LSU’s defense did its part, with two errors leading to an unearned run.
The following day, LSU earned a hard fought 5-2 victory in twelve innings. After Allie Walljasper surrendered a run in the sixth inning, a Bell home run and a Jaquish RBI double put the Tigers up one entering the bottom of the seventh. Unfortunately, Hoover, who was put in for Walljasper, threw a wild pitch allowing the tying run to score.
In the 12th inning, Bailey Landry tripled and scored on a Sandra Simmons sac fly. A few batters later, Jaquish would single home Bell and Emily Griggs. Hoover would retire the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning to even the series.
Sunday’s rubber match looked like the early season LSU offense, which scored eight runs in the fifth inning to win a 12-1 decision via run-rule. Bell was the Tigers top performer, going 2-of-4 with a Grand Slam home run. Amber Serrett drove in drove in three and Griggs drove in two more, in a game where every LSU batter scored at least one run. Sydney Smith held the Bulldogs in check, with five innings of two hit, one run ball, striking out three.
While the wins are most important, there were parts of this series that were very unsettling. Hoover pitching so poorly was a bit of a surprise. Six runs to a very bad lineup is not good for an average SEC caliber pitcher, let alone the ace of one of the better pitching staffs in the country.
While the LSU offense progressed over the weekend it is still with some issues. Even giving State’s starter Emily Silkwood credit as a good pitcher, four hits by LSU is still very low considering the Tigers had five hits in each game against a much better pitching staff in Kentucky last weekend. Meanwhile, Saturday’s game saw LSU leave an astounding 20 runners on base.
Beth Torina did mix up the lineup a bit this weekend, noticeably putting Walljasper in the cleanup spot and putting Serrett last in the lineup on Saturday. Simmons also was used in left field twice to keep Jaquish in the lineup.
The clear bright spot from this weekend was Sydney Smith. She pitched twice over the weekend, in relief of Hoover on Friday and then started on Sunday. In both outings she surrendered zero earned runs, retiring nine in a row after relieving Hoover in Friday’s game. Sunday, she allowed just two hits and struck out three. Considering her performance this weekend and that she has allowed just five earned runs since the start of March, Smith continues to make a compelling case for more time in the circle.
With a 7-11 record LSU still has a chance to finish the season with a .500 record in conference play, if they win five of the final six SEC contests.
Northwestern State comes to Tiger Park Wednesday, before South Carolina comes in for the weekend series.