A late seventh-inning rally from UL Monroe threatened to spoil the plans No. 15 LSU had for its head coach Beth Torina’s latest milestone.
The Warhawks cut a four-run deficit down to two and Madison Blount gave the final pitch from LSU’s Ali Kilponen quite a ride until Aliyah Andrews was able to track down the final out in deep center field in a 7-5 victory Tuesday at Tiger Park.
The victory enabled LSU (19-11) to snap a season-high three-game losing streak, but more importantly gave Torina her 400th win in her 10th season in Baton Rouge. She improved to 400-169 the school and 529-180 overall in 14 seasons.
“It’s awesome, and it’s cool for a lot of reasons to know that the same staff, Lindsey (Leftwich), Howard (Dobson), Quinlan (Duhon) were working for every single one of them is amazing, and then, think about all the women that contributed to this program that just really lived and died for purple and gold,” Torina said. “I didn’t play in any of the games, all I did was sit back and watch and play. We’ve had some phenomenal women that have done some amazing things for this program and truly given their heart and soul, so it’s been awesome to be a part of. Hope we can get 400 more here at LSU. I’d love to watch them play for 400 more.”
LSU made it interesting, though, carrying a 7-3 into the seventh with Kilponen having thrown 2.2 innings of scoreless relief after taking over for starter Morgan Smith.
The Warhawks (10-14) of the Sun Belt Conference loaded the bases in the seventh with one out when left fielder Kennedy Page sent a grounder toward the left side of the infield.
LSU shortstop Taylor Pleasants went deep in the hole but her throw was wild to third baseman Amanda Doyle, allowing ULM to score two runs and have more runners in scoring position.
The Tigers, who hadn’t made an error in their previous five games, committed three in the game.
Kilponen (6-4) then got Blount to fly out deep to center field to end the game. She allowed two hits, two runs (one earned), walked one and struck out three in 3.2 innings.
LSU broke a scoreless tie with a five-run second inning and added two more in the fifth inning.
Georgia Clark hit her fourth homer to lead off the second inning, but it the Tigers’ patience at the plate that helped result in four more runs.
LSU, which had a total of four hits in the game, drew a total of five walks in the inning and nine for the game against three different ULM pitchers. Andrews and Pleasants each drew bases-loaded walks to force in runs and Doyle added with a two-run single to center field as the Tigers batted around in the inning.
LSU got out of potential trouble in the fourth when Pleasants ignited a 6-4-3 double play when ULM closed to 5-3 an inning later. Right fielder Caley McGuff hit a two-run single with the bases loaded, but Kilponen came on in relief of Smith and held the Warhawks to one more run on a sacrifice fly.
LSU extended its lead in the sixth and after Savannah Stewart was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Ciara Briggs, the Tigers managed to pad their lead on Andrews’ two-run single down the left-field line.
LSU remains at home this week’s three-game Southeastern Conference series with Ole Miss which begins Thursday at 6 p.m.
“It’s something to build on,” Torina said of Tuesday’s win. “We had some good at-bats. We had some good moments. A game like this is always tough coming off the road, a short turnaround. And you know SEC series, it’s always tough so a win’s a win.
“We saw a lot of really good things that our kids can feel good about that they can build on. The defense was sloppy at times and we just need to slow down and think that we need to get some reps tomorrow, have a good practice for the weekend. But overall, you know it’s a win to put in our pocket and move on to Ole Miss.”