LSU concluded the regular season in strong form, taking two of three from Mississippi State giving the Tigers a 13-11 record in conference play, good enough to earn the sixth seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament.
In Friday’s opener LSU got its best both from the offense and pitching resulting in a 7-2 victory. Ali Kilponen had a strong start, tossing a complete game allowing two runs in her outing. For their part the Tigers gave Kilponen support early with Shelbi Sunseri hitting a three-run home run in the first inning, spotting Kilponen a 3-0 lead. In the fourth the Tigers added on four more runs thanks to a Danieca Coffee RBI walk, a run scoring single from Ciarra Briggs and a two-run single by Taylor Pleasants.
For most of Saturday’s game, both teams struggled to score runs but a Tiger explosion in the last-two innings ultimately paved the way for a 9-2 LSU win. In the sixth LSU scored its first run on a Mississippi State error, which allowed Briggs to score. Ali Newland would be hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring Pleasants. A Morgan Smith RBI single followed by an Ali Newland walk put the Tigers up 4-1 before Briggs would clear the bases with a double. The following inning Georgia Clark and Newland would each hit a solo home run. From the circle, Sunseri pitched seven innings picking up two stikeouts in the process.
The finale is one which LSU would like to have back, blowing a 5-0 lead and falling to the Bulldogs 6-5. LSU had a big fourth inning thanks to a Newland RBI single and grand slam from Clark. However, MSU kept chipping away at Kilponen, eventually taking the lead in the bottom of the sixth.
LSU now heads to Gainesville for the SEC Tournament where they will once again face Mississippi State in the quarterfinals, with a matchup against Tennessee looming if the Tigers can secure the first game.
Entering the tournament, the Tigers are in an interesting space. On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like they would be eligible for a super regional spot but they could potentially be in line for a regional with a strong performance in this tournament. However, this would likely require the Tigers to win the tournament entirely.
Having success in the tournament will likely depend on several factors. The first being pitching depth. LSU can pretty much lock in Kilponen for the first game but as this past series, and ones before that, demonstrated the Tigers haven’t found a ton of success beyond Kilponen and as perhaps the finale on Sunday showed, Kilponen is getting fatigued. The other factor will be cashing in on opportunities. The pitching LSU will be facing at this point in the season figures to be the best and the SEC especially is not short of quality arms. When the Tigers have runners on, it is critical to make sure those runs cash in.
LSU’s postseason will begin on Wednesday at 11 AM CT.