More newcomers to the LSU lineup stepped up as the Tigers picked up another three wins as part of the LSU Invitational, including one over #13 USL.
Sophomore catcher Morgan Cummins was the star of the weekend, going five-for-eight with two home runs and four RBI. Taylor Tidwell also tallied two home runs on the weekend. Freshman shortstop Taylor Pleasants continued her strong debut picking up three more hits and driving in three, including her second home run of the season. Ciarra Briggs posted four hits and an RBI over the four-game stretch.
The main attraction of the weekend were the two games against USL, including LSU’s first trip to Lafayette in 19 years. In game one, at Lafayette, the Tigers dropped a 2-1 contest. Cummins posted the first run of the game when her sac fly scored Shelbi Sunseri from third in the top of the second. The Cajuns would respond with two runs in the bottom of the inning off of Maribeth Gorsuch, who ultimately took the loss. Gorsuch labored through seven innings, allowing five hits, two earned runs and surrendering four walks.
Game two shifted to Baton Rouge. The Tigers got off to a quick start on a 2-run home run from Pleasants which scored Briggs. After the starter Shelbi Sunseri surrendered two in the top of the third, Cummins hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth. USL would tie it again in the top of the sixth when a throwing error from Tidwell scored Julie Rawls, on what would be Sunseri’s final batter of the game. Her final line was 5.1 innings six hits, two walks, three runs, two earned, and two strikeouts. Ali Kilponen would take over and induce a line-out double play to escape the inning. LSU would take the lead for good in the bottom of the inning when a single from Cummins scored Akiya Thymes. USL would threaten with two on and two out in the top of the seventh, before Kilponen got a pop fly to second to secure the 4-3 win.
LSU’s other two games were a 4-0 victory over Samford and an 8-0 run rule win over North Dakota. The win over Samford featured a seven inning shutout by Kilponen who struck out six on three hits and a walk. Cummins and Tidwell also hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the sixth. Against North Dakota, the Tigers got five solid innings from Shelby Wickersham who struck out five in five innings.
Through two series it is clear the offense is still a work in progress. The good news is that with Pleasants, Cummins and Tidwell all showing promise early, the Tigers have the potential bats to create a deep lineup. Even players who have not played much like Raeleen Gutierez and Cait Calland have made the most of limited playing. What is still lacking is cohesion, and in large part that can be contributed to the veterans who have not found their groove. Sunseri has an OPS of .422 and Amanda Doyle has an OPS of just .558. Meanwhile Aliyah Andrews is hitting just .182. Beth Torina has shown a lot of faith in her young lineup, bumping Doyle and Sunseri down in favor of Pleasants, Briggs, and Georgia Clark. However, if the veterans get back to form the Tigers will have a very potent lineup.
On the pitching side, Kilponen looks like an emerging ace. While she hasn’t had starts against the top teams, she leads the Tigers in appearances, innings, and in strikeouts with 14. Shelby Wickersham has also looked good through two weekends.
With Louisiana Tech on Wednesday, and then a four-game weekend slate with Belmont and Sam Houston State, Beth Torina will likely continue with lineup orders and pitching matchups before the big test at the Judi Garman Classic the following weekend.