LSU edges Ole Miss 1-0 in SEC series-opening softball thriller

Georgia Clark’s hit didn’t leave the infield but had the same desired effect.

With No. 15 LSU locked in a fierce battle Thursday with Ole Miss in the first game of a Southeastern Conference series, Clark’s one-out walk-off infield single in the bottom of the eighth inning produced the game’s only run in a 1-0 victory at Tiger Park.

“This whole year we’ve put a lot of barrels on balls and they haven’t gone down,” Clark said. “Shelbi (Sunseri) pitched a great game for us and as an offense we pushed six hits going into that inning. We just needed a few to fall for us to win the game and we did in the last inning.”

LSU (20-11, 5-5 in SEC) snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 3-1 this season in extra innings. The Tigers will host the Rebels again at 6 p.m. Friday.

Sunseri (6-3) persevered in a pitchers’ duel against Ole Miss’ Anna Borgen. The two staff aces matched each other with scoreless softball through 7 ½ innings.

Sunseri, a junior, allowed four hits but dealt with control issues at times with four walks and three hit batters. But she was able to sew up her second shutout of the season and fourth complete game.

“When you have a defense behind you that makes plays and is just constantly bringing the energy, it’s easy to go out throw for them,” Sunseri said. “I knew that we needed a win, and I was going to do anything I could to help our team out. I just knew they were going to have my back and they were going to make the plays when we needed to make them. I knew the offense was going to come through. It was just a matter of time.”

Borgen (7-4) had retired nine of LSU’s last 10 batters until freshman second baseman Danieca Coffey (2-for-3) led off the eighth with a single and Aliyah Andrews followed by dropping down a bunt.

The Tigers then loaded the bases when Borgen hit shortstop Taylor Pleasants before getting a fielder’s choice off the bat of Amanda Doyle which resulted in Coffey being thrown out at home.

Clark, who went 2-for-4, lofted a 1-0 pitch from Borgen over the pitcher’s circle and just out of reach of a diving Ole Miss second baseman Blaise Biringer. She gathered the ball on her knees but wasn’t able to throw out the speedy Andrews sliding at home.

“To have a freshman have a performance like that is so cool,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina said of Coffey. “She had a really big night for us. She’s a great player, I’m excited about the future for her. Aliyah can bunt for a hit all the time. That’s why it’s so perfect to have her in that spot and then just finding the right person to push the run.

“I felt confident about the three kids (Clark, Sunseri and Raeleen Gutierrez) coming up. It felt like a matter of when to me. It didn’t feel like at any point we were out of it. It just felt like a matter of when we were able to push that run.”

Ole Miss stranded 10 runners on base against Sunseri, who got a strikeout of Biringer to end a threat in the fourth inning. Sunseri also got Sydney Gutierrez to line into a double play to close out the fifth and the Tigers defense got a bang-bang play from Pleasants to Coffey to catcher Morgan Cummins to nab Aynslie Furbush at the plate in the sixth.

“Shelbi Sunseri had a great performance tonight overall, and she was very prepared,” Torina said. “We had a couple of things that went our way defensively, a few double plays, a couple of great plays here and there, and I think you have to have things go your way in games like this.”

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