Carley Hoover went the distance against the Wildcats in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals as the Tigers earned a 3-1 victory.
Hoover’s performance against Kentucky will certainly go down as one of her best of the season, going seven innings, surrendering three hits, three walks, one run and striking out five. Kentucky did threaten in the bottom of the seventh when a Katie Reed double scored Maisie Steed and put the tying run at the plate in Sylver Samuel with two outs, only to have Hoover force Samuel to foul out to win the game.
Kentucky countered Hoover not with SEC Pitcher of the Year Kelsey Nunley, but with a still very capable Meagan Prince and her 1.75 ERA and 110 strikeouts. For the most part Prince did her job keeping the Tigers off the board through with just three base runners through the first four innings.
Fortunes for the Tigers shifted when back-to-back singles by Amber Serrett and Emily Griggs set up Sandra Simmons with no outs. With the threat looming, Kentucky pulled Prince in favor of Nunley who had shutout the Tigers in two games earlier this year. With Kentucky’s ace in the circle, Simmons launched a three run home run to right field, in what will likely go down as one of the biggest plays on the year.
Following the home run, the Tigers failed to reach base against Nunley, who struck out three in the relief appearance, but the damage had been done.
If LSU was firmly in a position to secure a Regional entering Thursday, the Kentucky win solidified Baton Rouge as a host site in the first round.
This game was a basic blueprint of what succeeds in the postseason: great pitching and timely hitting. Hoover’s lockdown performance was what made this game competitive even as the Tiger offense was stifled through the early portion. On offense, when the Tigers were able to threaten, they cashed in thanks to Simmons’ big hit.
LSU’s next opponent is Tennessee, a team the Tigers did not face during the regular season but did eliminate the Tigers from the SEC Tournament last season.