Although the Tigers took three-of-five games at the Mary Nutter classic, LSU lost the two most important games of the series, 6-5 to #7 UCLA and 3-0 to #18 Utah.
In the game against UCLA, Carley Hoover got off to an uncharacteristically bad start when she surrendered a grand slam home run in the first inning to Madeline Jelenicki. Hoover would settle down, yielding just one more run in her six and a third innings pitched. She walked six and struck out eight.
For most of the UCLA game, it appeared that Amanda Doyle was going to be the offense for the Tigers. The freshman accounted for the only two runs through the first six innings with two solo home runs. The Tigers offense came through in the seventh when a two-out, bases loaded 3-RBI double by Sahvanna Jaquish tied the game at five.
In the bottom of the seventh, Hoover recorded the first two outs before Allie Walljasper came on to close out the inning. The following inning with tie breaking rules in effect (giving each team a runner at second to start the inning) an Amber Serrett error allowed Brianna Tautalafua to score and gave the game to the Bruins. Serrett's error was one of three LSU errors in the game, though only her error led to a run.
LSU played a noticeably cleaner game against Utah, but one where the offense was nonexistent. Early on it looked like LSU lineup would have a strong afternoon, with a runner on third with one out in the first and runners on second and third with one out in the second. In both instances, LSU failed to score a run and from the third inning on, the Tigers never had a runner reach second base.
On the pitching end, Sydney Smith held the Utah bats in check, allowing just one run in three and two thirds innings. Her one run came in the fourth when she allowed an RBI single to Kelly Martinez. After a caught stealing, Smith issued a walk which loaded the bases, and was pulled in favor of Walljasper, who would end the threat. Unfortunately, Walljasper allowed a two-run home run the following inning. Hoover would pitch the final inning and a third of the game, striking out one.
In the other three games LSU was absolutely dominant, winning all three by a combined score of 26-1 but, again, the UCLA and Utah games were the ones which were going to define this weekend.
Going into those two games, it was critical the Tigers play a complete game with the offense, defense and pitching performing well if the Tigers wanted to have a chance to win. Against UCLA the offense was good, the pitching wasn’t nor was the defense. Against Utah the pitching was good and the offense did not show up.
Perhaps some leeway can be given to the pitching staff as it has been carrying the Tigers all year and even after a bad outing against UCLA, the staff was sharp against Utah. The offense however is still troublesome. Yes, tying the game late against UCLA great but being held in check for most of the UCLA and Utah games is concerning. Again, the bottom of the lineup was a problem, with the seven, eight, nine spots going a combined 1-for-15. It’s particularly disappointing, given that Serrett and Quinn, two of the regulars, actually had very good overall totals on the weekend.
One of the positives from the weekend was Maribeth Gorsuch. After a couple of rough outings, the freshman threw a complete game, striking out five while allowing one run on three hits. Offensively, Landy, Jaquish and Shemiah Sanchez were the most consistent hitters, with all three reaching base at least once in each of the five games.
Under other circumstances it would seem foolish to be disappointed about a series where the Tigers won the majority of their games, but this is a unique situations. UCLA and Utah were a measuring stick to see how the Tigers ranked compared with other championship caliber teams and when they played, the results were underwhelming. In fairness, two games is a pretty small sample size. Furthemore, it wasn’t as if the Tigers were blown out in any of these games. Even when Hoover gave up the grand slam in the first, she managed the Bruin lineup for the rest of the outing and LSU was in striking distance the entire game against Utah.
These two games were disappointing, but they are just two games. The losses aren’t good but they aren’t damning either. SEC play begins in under two weeks and those games will be an even better indicator of where the Tigers rank nationally.
The Tigers have some more winnable games before conference play begins which once again allows Beth Torina to figure out what works and what doesn’t. LSU travels to Hattiesburg for a game against Southern Miss on Tuesday before returning for six home games as part of the LSU Invitational.