By TIGER RAG NEWS SERVICES
BATON ROUGE, La. – After spotting the visiting Illinois State Redbirds two runs in the very first inning, the LSU softball team regrouped by scoring in every inning after that, getting a two home run night from Kellsi Kloss and a three-hitter from Sydney Smith in a 10-2 win in five innings Friday to open the Purple and Gold Challenge in Baton Rouge.
A week to the day when she became the first player to earn two grand slams in the same game and set the single-game RBI mark, the senior helped power the LSU (10-2) offense as she went 2-for-3 on the day with six RBIs and two runs scored. Each of Kloss’ home runs capped four-run frames for LSU in the third and fourth inning, getting a single run in the second and fifth to overcome an early deficit to earn the win and finishing the night as a group with 13 hits.
“I think when you have offense you have hope. I think our team understands they have a great offense and a lot of ability,” head coach Beth Torina said. “They can all score one through nine in the lineup. I don’t think there was ever a moment when they thought they were out of the ball game.”
Bailey Landry led all players at the plate, going a perfect 3-for-3 with a triple, two runs scored and a stolen base, followed by Constance Quinn who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a triple. Sandra Simmons earned her third-straight two-hit game by going 2-for-3 with a run scored and some solid plays at first base for the defense.
Both of the runs scored by the Redbirds (3-8) were off of LSU errors, as Smith (2-0) earned the victory by striking out five, walking one and allowed just three hits in the five-inning affair, lowering her season earned run average to 0.50. Smith threw 96 pitches on the night, with 59 for strikes.
“I think I have a lot to improve on and we’re going to work on that, but we got the win,” Smith said. “Having an offense like this behind you really helps.”
Regan Romshek (0-3) suffered the loss after giving up seven runs on nine hits with two walks and two strikeouts in three innings, while Ali Domkuski pitched 1.1 innings and allowed four runs on three hits with a walk in relief.
The Tigers didn’t help themselves in the very first inning, as a walk and an error on the sacrifice bunt attempt put two runners on for the Redbirds. A wild pitch advanced the runners into scoring position, with a grounder keeping the two at bay for the first out. A strikeout gave LSU life to get out of the inning unscathed, but another error allowed both to score as the visitors took the 2-0 lead.
Landry got the game’s first hit in the bottom of the second inning, earning the base knock with two outs on the board. She stole second, and Taylor Satchell ripped a single to left to plate the run and cut the deficit to just one run.
With two outs already on the board in the bottom of the third, Sahvanna Jaquish ripped a single to left to reach first. Bianka Bell hit a high chopper to the left to put two on, as with a 3-2 count Kloss hit one high into the night air dancing down the left field line to clear the bases and put the Tigers on top 4-2. Landry followed and laced a triple to left center, coming in on an Amber Serrett single to left to plate another run making it 5-2 LSU.
“My team does such a good job of getting on base for me, and that makes my job so much easier,” Kloss said. “They have to throw to me because my teammates in front of me get on base.”
Smith got the first out of the top of the fourth inning, but consecutive hits put two on for the Redbirds. Simmons made a diving stop to get out the lead runner on a grounder, allowing the runners to advance but getting the second out. She was able to get out of the jam with a slow grounder back to the circle, making the short throw to first to end the inning.
Simmons opened the Tiger half of the fourth with a single down the right field line to get on, needing to get on her high horse soon after as Quinn lined one over the right fielder’s head for the triple to score Simmons and make it 6-2 LSU. ISU changed pitchers and got the next two batters to go down in order before a Bell walk put runners at the corners, leaving the door open for Kloss to strike again, drilling one to the Terrace in left for the three-run bomb to make it 9-2 LSU.
“I’ve been putting a lot of extra time in with my coaches. I’ve made that a point this year to not be satisfied with anything in the past that I’ve done,” Kloss said. “I want to make this year my best year and I want to do it for the rest of my team as well. I couldn’t do anything without my coaches and how they prepare us.”
With an out in the fifth, Simmons earned another hit with a single down the left field line, as Akiya Thymes came on to pinch run. She stole second, and Quinn capitalized with a single to center as the speedster rounded third and came in for the run-rule clincher to make it 10-2.
LSU will be back in action on Saturday, opening day two of the tournament with another game against Illinois State at 2:30 p.m., before taking on Texas Tech at 5 p.m. at Tiger Park.