12th ranked LSU softballers hop on Aggies early, win to even the SEC series 1-1 heading into Monday’s finale

Shelbi Sunseri's first inning solo homer Sunday at Tiger Park got LSU rolling to a 6-1 win over Texas A&M to even their three-game SEC series.

LSU’s softball team didn’t wait long Sunday for the appropriate response it wanted to make after dropping Saturday’s opener of a three-game Southeastern Conference home series against Texas A&M.

The Tigers needed exactly an inning to score three times on five hits, including a two-run homer from Shelbi Sunseri, who also sparkled in the circle in a 6-1 victory Sunday at Tiger Park.

“We just came out attacking from pitch one and that made a huge difference,” LSU senior third baseman Amanda Doyle said. “Obviously, we don’t like it when someone beats us at our field, so we just came out from pitch one and attacked and you saw the difference from this game to yesterday’s game.”

The two teams meet in the series finale at 6 p.m. Monday in a game that will be televised by the SEC Network.

No. 12 LSU (17-8, 3-2) rebounded from Saturday’s 2-1 setback in a game the Tigers were limited to a pair of singles by A&M’s Makinzy Herzog.

Herzog went the distance, facing the go-ahead run with a pair of runners on base in the bottom of the seventh when she struck out Danieca Coffey to end the game, setting off a mild team celebration amongst the Aggies that recorded their first win over a ranked team this season.

“Nobody likes to lose, and nobody especially likes to lose at home,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina said. “Tiger Park is really something special and precious and it’s prideful for us to defend it. We don’t like to see other people celebrating on our field. I think they wanted to send a message and make sure that it didn’t happen again.”

So, LSU went out and did something about it.

The Tigers opened game two with two straight outs when Doyle singled to right on an 0-2 pitch that helped spark the team’s uprising that included five consecutive hits. Sunseri hit her sixth homer of the season, sending a towering 2-1 pitch from A&M’s losing pitcher Kayla Poynter that clanged midway off a light tower in left-center field and measured 242 feet.

“What a difference that makes,” Torina said. “Scoring first, you’re setting a different tone and giving us some room to breathe, some room to work. They did a great job of scoring first and then continuing to score throughout. Creating some distance at the end really makes a difference.”

Raeleen Gutierrez, who started at first base, doubled down the right-field line and scored on Ciara Briggs’ single down the left-field line to make it 3-0.

“Shelbi’s moonshot was awesome, that ball went far,” Doyle said.

A&M (20-4, 1-1), which had its 10-game win streak snapped, cut LSU’s early three-run lead to 3-1 in the third on a single through the right side of the infield and into right field from catcher Haley Lee. Sunseri came back from 2-0 in the count against left fielder Shaylee Ackermann to make it 2-2 and got her swinging on a change-up for the final out to strand a runner.

That seemed to serve as a catalyst for Sunseri (4-2), who retired A&M in order over the next two innings in a stretch that included eight straight batters until a one-out walk to Lee in the sixth. She retired 13 of the last 14 batters she faced for her third complete-game of the season that included three hits, three walks and a season-high eight strikeouts.

“My defense behind me did really well,” Sunseri said. “When I know I’m going to have a defense that’s going to make plays it’s easy to go out and do my job and let my defense work.”

LSU scored an unearned run in the fourth and added two more in the fifth inning when Doyle (2-for-3) lined a shot over a leaping second baseman and into right field for a two-run double that scored Aliyah Andrews and Coffey.

The Tigers finished with a season-high 12 hits, the most allowed by A&M’s pitching this year. Doyle was among three players with two hits along with Gutierrez and designated player Georgia Clark, and every starter picked up at least one hit and everyone in the lineup reached base safely.

“Game three’s all about having guts,” Doyle said. “We’re going to go out there and play LSU softball, go out attacking from pitch one just like today.”

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