The Tigers dropped two of three games to the Florida Gators in Gainesville, including a heartbreaking 5-3 loss in the rubber game which saw the Tigers blow a 3-0 lead.
In the finale, Beth Torina made a bit of surprise move when she tapped Shelbi Sunseri to start the game. Early on it looked like the unorthodox move was working out as Sunseri kept the Gators off the board through the first four innings of the game. Meanwhile the Tiger bats broke out in the top of the fifth with a solo home run by Shemiah Sanchez and a two-run home run by Michaela Schlattman.
Things began to fall apart in the bottom of the fifth. After allowing the first two runners to reach, Torina opted for Maribeth Gorsuch who had pitched 6.1 innings in the Tigers 3-0 win on Saturday. Gorsuch struck out the first batter, but then allowed a walk to load the bases, a game tying triple, and then a single to give the Gators the lead. She would be responsible for another Gator run the next inning, when a lead off walk would later score on a sac fly. LSU’s bats could not pick up the runs needed and the Tigers would fall 5-3.
For the game LSU did win, the offense was powered entirely by Schlattman who hit a two-run home run and recorded an RBI single. Allie Walljasper picked up the save when Gorsuch allowed two runners to reach with one out in the seventh.
In Friday’s game, the Tigers were no contest. The combination of Carley Hoover and Sunseri surrendered seven runs. Florida’s Kelly Barnhill struck out 15 Tigers in the 7-0 victory.
Although on the surface this may seem like LSU’s typical SEC road struggles, there is a fair amount to digest from this weekend. The big second guess would be the decision to put Gorsuch in game three over Walljasper or Hoover. Torina has shown a tendency to make the game three pitcher the best starter from games one and two. In that sense the Gorsuch move makes sense. However, once the triple was surrendered, putting Hoover or Walljasper in, even in the sixth, would have likely been the safer move, assuming they were both healthy.
On the flip side, it is difficult to not be extremely pleased with the performance on Saturday. Gorsuch used Saturday to show that her future is still bright, even with limited opportunities this year. All season there have been issues with the bottom of the lineup, and for the in a while, the bottom of the lineup was able to power the Tiger offense. That was true for both games one and two. In a twist, it was the top of the Tiger lineup which struggled mightily over the weekend with Aliyah Andrews, Taylor Antoine, Emily Griggs and Amanda Doyle combining for just two hits over the weekend. The Gators have an outstanding staff sure, but the top of the lineup still has to find a way to be more productive than two hits in three games.
The Tigers now sit at 10-10 in conference play, seventh in the standings. If the Tigers want to crack the top-4 and earn a first round bye in the SEC tournament, they would have to sweep next week’s series versus Arkansas and have both Tennessee and Texas A&M get swept. A less lofty aspiration would be winning the series against Arkansas, a team that is just one game ahead of the Tigers in the standings, likely setting up a first round championship matchup with Mizzou.
Those final three games against Arkansas begin on Friday, May 4th, 6:30 PM at Tiger Park.