LSU pitcher Ali Kilponen was so excited at the sight of teammate Taylor Pleasants’ tiebreaking homer in the bottom of the sixth inning, she felt compelled to do her part in the top of the seventh to make it stand up.
Kilponen, who allowed a one-out double, responded with a strikeout and a groundout to end Friday’s game that enabled No. 15 LSU to hold off Ole Miss, 3-2, and secure a victory in the Southeastern Conference series at Tiger Park.
LSU (20-11, 6-5 in SEC) will go for its first league sweep of the against Ole Miss (21-12, 5-6) in a 1 p.m. matchup Saturday.
“I was so hyped,” Kilponen said of Pleasants’ homer that snapped a 2-all tie. “That’s just one of the things as a pitcher that you’re so thankful for. I know how hard she works for that moment and our offense works so hard. It’s just so cool to see it pay off and then to go out there and shut it down. She helped us that game. That was a huge moment.”
LSU, which moved into fifth place in the SEC standings, defeated Ole Miss for the second straight game by one run. The Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead after three innings before the Rebels rallied to tie the game at 2-all in the top of the fourth.
“I think Ole Miss has played a lot of their games like this, too,” said LSU softball coach Beth Torina, whose team improved to 6-3 in one-run games. “They’re really playing tough, tight games and they’ve shown they really fight, too. It’s a matchup of two teams that have battled through some stuff and are willing to keep fighting and give it all they have.”
Pleasants was LSU’s lone player with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs. The left-handed hitting shortstop led off the bottom of the sixth against losing pitcher Savannah Diederich, going the opposite way with an outside drop ball that she deposited over the left field fence for the game-winning run.
“I’ve actually been working on that quite a bit lately,” she said. “Just going with the outside pitch, not trying to force anything. Sitting drop ball that’s something you really have to do is stay with it wherever it is. I think I’ve been working on that enough and I finally got it.”
LSU scored single runs in each of the second and third innings against Diederich, who allowed six hits, walked two and struck out four.
Georgia Clark walked, and Amanda Doyle doubled, setting the stage for Raeleen Gutierrez’s sacrifice fly to center field.
LSU made it 2-0 when Danieca Coffey reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second base. She scored when Pleasants’ tough-hop grounder was misplayed by the second baseman for an error, enabling Coffey to score.
Starting pitcher Shelby Wickersham pitched into the fourth inning when she ran into trouble.
Ole Miss’ Paige Smith singled up the middle, the second hit of the inning, to reduce LSU’s lead to 2-1 when Torina opted to make a change and brought Kilponen in to replace Wickersham with one out in the inning.
Wickersham allowed two runs (both earned) on five hits in 3.1 innings. She struck out three and walked two.
“I thought we could get Wick through the lineup once or twice and hand it over to Ali,” Torina said. “I thought she was a good matchup. I wanted to her to give them a little bit different look based on the game before. The plan was executed really well by the pitchers and I thought it was successful.”
Kilponen got the second out of the inning with a groundout but catcher Autumn Gillespie tied the game with a single to center when Kilponen got a groundout to end the inning and keep the game tied.
“I tried to just bring the fire,” said Kilponen, who yielded three hits and struck out five in pitching 3.2 scoreless innings in relief. “I try to hype the team up on the littlest things. I even try to hype myself up a little bit. If I throw a great pitch, I’m the first to fist pump and cheer on (catcher) Cait (Calland) for helping me win the pitches the plate.”
Kilponen (5-3) went on to retire eight of the next nine batters she faced until Keester doubled in the seventh where she wound up to end the game. Ole Miss stranded 10 runners for the second straight game.
“Right away I thought next pitch, I’m going to make this pitch the best pitch,” Kilponen said after allowing the double to Keester. “I said I need to get this (next) batter out and that was my main concern and execute my best pitches.”