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Softball Opens Season with Five Wins

Underclass bats provide boost to the offense

Brandon Gallego / LSUSports.net

Thanks to great pitching, clutch hitting, and a few offensive explosions, the Tigers opened their 2020 campaign with five straight wins, including two over No.13 Oklahoma State.

The game of the weekend came on Saturday in LSU’s 3-2 win over Oklahoma State capped off by freshman Taylor Pleasants launching a walk-off home run to centerfield, the first of her collegiate career. Prior to the home run, LSU had rallied to tie the game on two separate occasions. In the third inning, Shelbi Sunseri was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and in the bottom of the sixth, Ciarra Briggs doubled in Taylor Tidwell. In spite of the offense, the Tigers received a strong outing from Maribeth Gorsuch, who struck out seven while allowing two hits, two runs and a walk over seven innings.

Things played out in a similar fashion against Oklahoma State on Friday night. The 1-0 Tiger win was anchored by six shutout innings from Shelby Wickersham and a shutdown inning from Ali Kilponen. Georgia Clark supplied the offense, driving in Savannah Stewart on a single in the bottom of the sixth.

The sophomore at first base, Clark was the Tiger’s best offensive force over the weekend, going four-for-six with two home runs, two RBI, and walking eight times. Pleasants also had a strong weekend, going 9-for-13 to go along with her walk-off bomb. Tidwell had five RBI over the five-game stretch.

Tiger bats came alive in two games against Florida A&M, which LSU won 8-0 and 16-0 both in run-rule fashion. The 16-0 game, which featured a 15-run second inning, also saw Kilponen, Taylor Edwards and Victoria Abrams combine for a no-hitter. Kilponen was particularly impressive, striking out five in three innings of work.

LSU’s season opener against Central Arkansas, was the rockiest game of the weekend. Although the Tigers won 3-2, they trailed 1-0 after the first inning and committed three errors overall. LSU got its big hits from Amanda Doyle, with an RBI double in the second, and a Clark home run in the third. The Tigers also secured a run when a throwing error by UCA shortstop Lexi McClellan scored Doyle.

In summation, this was an excellent weekend for the Tigers, providing at least some clarity on the major questions entering the season. Offensively, the Tigers had strong debuts from multiple newcomers. In fact, the new faces out played the veterans as Sunseri, Aliyah Andrews and Doyle went a combined three-for-thirty two over the opening weekend.

The pitching also looked good. Kilponen was absolutely dominant both as a starter and in relief, striking out eight over five combined innings. After being one of the worst strikeout teams in the SEC last season, this weekend was a step in the right direction towards reversing last year’s results.

Although Beth Torina used a different lineup for each game, there are some early trends. As expected, Andrews was in the leadoff spot with Sunseri hitting third. However, by the end of the weekend Pleasants and Clark were hitting first and second respectively. Defensively Clark split time between DP and first. Additionally, Stewart started in leftfield and hit second in each game. Tidwell started all five games at second and hit in the eight spot every game, though after her strong weekend it would be appropriate to have her hitting further up in the lineup.

While it was only the first weekend of the season, it was an excellent one. The Tigers look to keep the momentum going at the LSU invitational featuring No.10 ULL, Sanford and North Dakota.