If Southeastern Louisiana was hoping to catch No. 12 LSU looking ahead to its first home Southeastern Conference softball series this weekend, they were sadly mistaken.
The Tigers traveled and gave the Lions their full attention and administered a 12-1 victory Tuesday at North Oak Park in Hammond.
“We did what we came here to do,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina, whose team hosts Texas A&M in a three-game series beginning Saturday. “It was a really important game to our team. They know a lot of these girls. Just to represent the state and all parts of the state is really important to our team. It was a big game to us. It wasn’t something we looked past or took lightly. We knew they were talented; we knew they were good, and we wanted to show up and give them our best game.”
LSU (16-7) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and added a run in the third. The Tigers, who finished with eight hits, expanded their lead with three runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and capped their scoring in the seventh on Raeleen Gutierrez’s inside-the-park, grand slam home run.
It was more than enough support for winning pitcher Ali Kilponen (4-3) who worked the first six innings and freshman Morgan Smith finished up the seventh.
LSU’s offense, which didn’t have a player with more than one hit, was a study in patience, drawing 11 walks against three of SLU’s four pitchers.
“Having patience and having discipline at the plate is something we work really hard at,” Torina said “So to see them execute that is good. I’m of the belief that walks are earned, even more than they’re given. We went out and earned those walks by being disciplined and swinging at pitches in our plan and playing LSU softball the entire time.”
LSU first baseman Georgia Clark, who was 3 of 8 with five RBIs over the weekend in her team’s series win at Tennessee, continued her hot streak and gave the Tigers an early 2-0 lead.
LSU loaded the bases in the top of the first when Taylor Pleasants walked, Amanda Doyle was hit by a pitch and Shelbi Sunseri walked. Clark hit a two-run double off the fence in left field.
“We all know she’s one of the best hitters in the country,” Torina said. “It’s important for us to get her going. I don’t think we’ll be who we can be without her. Getting her going is really important and hopefully we’re there.”
LSU made it 3-0 on Pleasants’ RBI-single to score Ali Newland, who led off the second with a walk. Doyle helped the Tigers break the game open with a bases-loaded single to center field that made it 5-0 and Clark added her third RBI of the game when she was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Catcher Morgan Cummins led off the fifth with a homer to center field and Ali Newland, who doubled, scored on a throwing error.
LSU’s seventh inning included the first hit of the season from second baseman Kennedi Houshmandzadeh and walks to Akiya Thymes and Doyle, setting the stage for Gutierrez, who replaced Clark at first base.
Gutierrez lined a 2-1 pitch into left-center field, just out of reach of a diving attempt in center field, which rolled all the way to the fence and enabled Gutierrez to make it all the way around the bases without a throw home for her first career homer.
After making a pair of relief appearances, including a win in Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Tennessee, Kilponen made her fifth start of the season. She allowed five hits in her second-longest outing of the season, an unearned run with four walks and five strikeouts.
“That was important because she didn’t get a start over the weekend,” Torina said. “It was important to get her some innings and get her sharp. I know she was into it this weekend, but to keep her sharp and keep her going was really important. I thought she would be a good matchup as well.”