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Softball drops first SEC series of 2019

Tigers out pitched and out hit by Arkansas

It was a rare, and hopefully lone, mulligan of a weekend for the LSU softball team. The Tigers had their six-series SEC series win streak snapped, losing two-of-three to Arkansas, with a notably bad performance both from the circle and at the plate.

The pitching struggles might have been a crescendo of issues that have popped up of late. The Tigers have dropped from second in the SEC in opponents batting average to fifth and have allowed five runs or more in five of the last nine SEC games, compared to just once in the previous nine conference games. Fatigue might be one factor to consider in the struggle. Freshman Ali Kilponen and Shelby Wickersham are in their first season pitching at the collegiate level. Shelbi Sunseri and Maribeth Gorsuch have exceeded their career high in innings. Sunseri tossed just 13.1 innings last year and Gorsuch is on pace to throw more innings this season than she has in her first two years combined.

LSU’s most experienced pitcher, Gorsuch, had the roughest outing of the staff, surrendering seven earned, failing to make it out of the first inning in the Razorbacks 11-1 run-rule win. Sunseri, who came in relief, of Gorsuh, allowed four runs in an inning and two thirds. She did bounce back with a seven inning, one run, five strikeout performance in the Tigers lone victory of the series, 3-1 on Saturday to prevent the sweep. Neither Kilponen nor Wickersham were particularly sharp in the series opener, with Wickersham allowing three earned, five total, in 4.2 innings pitched. With a two run lead, Kilponen surrendered three runs in 2.1 innings in the 8-5 Razorback win.

More surprising on the weekend was the Tiger offense that was quiet for most of the series. The eight total runs scored in the series was the fewest LSU has scored in a SEC series this season. Two Tigers, Aliyah Andrews and Shemiah Sanchez, did have solid weekends. Andrews went six-for-twelve with two runs scored. Sanchez hit her 16th home run of the season. Amanda Doyle’s three-run home run was the difference in LSU’s lone victory. Doyle, Sanchez, and Andrews each had three hits in the finale.

LSU still sits in second place in the SEC, though they’re now three games back in the loss column to Alabama for first place. With LSU playing three games against Baylor this coming weekend, the Tigers will not be able to move up in the conference standing. However, Alabama has a series against Kentucky, and any loss by the Tide will shrink the lead in the standings. Even if the Tide do not drop any games, LSU could still win the conference regular season title. If Alabama’s record remains as is, a Tiger sweep would tie Bama’s conference record, and give LSU the tiebreaker, which is head-to-head results. If the Tide lose at least once this weekend, The Tigers would only have to win two-of-three for the regular season SEC championship.

ULM visits Tiger Park on Tuesday, then the Tigers head to Waco for three against Baylor.