A two out, bases loaded single in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the JMU Dukes a 3-2, victory over LSU, and a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-three super regional.
The game winning hit came off of Carley Hoover who pitched the complete game, but labored through seven innings. An impressive seven strikeouts was overshadowed by eight hits and five walks. Hoover was victimized by two Jailyn Ford home runs, both times tying up the score after LSU had taken the lead. Hoover allowed at least two runners to reach base in four of her seven innings and only retired the side in order once.
On offense, the Tigers were limited against the top-tier JMU pitching combination of Ford and Megan Good, which limited the Tigers to five hits and a walk on the afternoon. Things looked promising in the second inning when Constance Quinn doubled in Sahvanna Jaquish giving LSU the one run lead in the second. One batter later, Serrett singled but Quinn was thrown out at home, ending the inning.
Later, Sandra Simmons homered putting the Tigers up by a run once more. Simmons was also the only Tiger to record two hits on the afternoon. Following Simmons home run, LSU was shut down by Good, who replaced an injured Ford, and threw just 38 pitches in her four innings of work, retiring 11 of the 13 batters she faced, making her presence felt in the circle and in the batter’s box.
While the results are disappointing, the first game of this series played out as expected. Offense was limited and pitching dominated.
Although the run total for JMU was low, this was not Hoover’s best game, though it was still a quality one. It’s certainly positive that she was able to keep the Dukes from any big innings and escaped several jams. On the other hand, in a game where runs were at a premium, blowing the lead twice, to the same hitter, was devastating.
When the Tigers did get a chance to score runs they did a solid job, going 2-of-6 (.333) with runners in scoring position and 4-of-8 (.500) in advancement opportunities. Unfortunately, there just weren’t that many opportunities to get runners on first base. The point of controversy in this game would certainly be the decision to send Quinn from second on Serrett’s single, against a really good fielding team. However, this was probably the right move considering Quinn is one of the better runners on the team and against really good pitching staff base runners were going to be at a premium. After the second, only one other LSU base runner reached second base.
In the end, the Tigers are exactly where they don’t want to be after one game: on the brink of elimination. The good news from this game is that LSU showed it can produce some offense against the Dukes and Hoover can limit this lineup. For Saturday, the key might be the health of Ford. Her arm was reportedly in a sling with an ice pack around it following her injury. Good is still 5th in the nation in ERA and did quite a number on the Tigers in Friday’s game. With JMU’s pitching depth potentially cut in half, LSU’s offense might be able to capitalize on some fatigue as Saturday progresses, assuming the Tiger pitching staff at least matches its performance from Friday.