For the second straight Southeastern Conference series and third time this season LSU’s softball team showed it knows how to close out a series.
A day after piling up a season-high 12 hits in a 6-1 victory over Texas A&M, the No. 12 Tigers proved they can win in different ways. They had just two hits but took advantage of eight walks and a key throwing error in Monday’s 4-1 game three victory over the Aggies at Tiger Park.
LSU (18-8, 4-2 in SEC) rallied from a 2-1 game one loss on Saturday with consecutive wins over Texas A&M (20-5, 1-2) to claim its second straight series. The Tigers are third in the league standings.
LSU, which closed out a series win against then-7th-ranked Texas with a game 3 victory on March 7, is scheduled to travel to South Alabama for a 6:30 p.m. contest Wednesday and continue to Florida for a three-game SEC series beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.
“It’s definitely hard going down the first game of a series,” LSU center fielder Aliyah Andrews said. “But the fight we have to win the next two is what shows, and it proves we can go against anybody. It’s literally about who has the most guts.”
A&M carried a 1-0 lead into the fifth inning, riding a one-hitter from starting pitcher Kelsey Broadus who had five of her six strikeouts to that point.
Winning pitcher Ali Kilponen (5-3) kept the Aggies scoreless after the second inning. She limited the visitors to four hits, overcame an uncharacteristic five walks with nine strikeouts – her second-highest total of the season – to record her third complete game.
“She really dominated,” Andrews said of Kilponen. “She should have had five more strikeouts, but she didn’t because of the tight (strike) zone. She had that many (nine) and it really paid off. She worked so hard.”
However, LSU’s patience at the plate paid huge dividends in the fifth inning when the Tigers sent nine batters to the plate, scoring four runs on just one hit. The Tigers drew five walks against Broadus and Game 1 winner Makinzy Herzog who combined for eight walks in the game.
“Winning the freebie war definitely was the whole key to the thing tonight,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina said. “It’s capitalizing on the other people’s mistakes and taking what you can.”
LSU’s first two batters – Allie Newland and Cait Calland – drew walks following an out in the pivotal fifth and Andrews lined a hard shot off A&M shortstop Rylen Wiggins and into left field to score pinch-runner Taryn Antoine to tie the game.
Herzog came on in relief of Broadus and extended an intentional walk to shortstop Taylor Pleasants, who had her team’s first hit in the third inning. Calland gave LSU a 2-1 lead, scoring on a wild pitch from Broadus who then exited the game and Herzog walked designated player Shelbi Sunseri with two outs.
Clark worked the count to 1-1 when a passed ball got all the way to the backstop, enabling Andrews to score and the Tigers made it 4-1 on an error by catcher Haley Lee’s throw to Herzog covering home plate.
“I thought the big key was finding a way to win,” Torina said. “That’s really what Day 3 is all about in the SEC. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it doesn’t have to be flashy. Just finding ways to win and our team was able to do that.”
Kilponen, who threw 123 pitches, walked at least one batter between the third through fifth innings but didn’t allow a runner beyond third base during that span. She worked a perfect sixth inning and allowed a lead-off walk in the seventh when her defense, for the second time in the game, turned a double play with third baseman Amanda Doyle fielding a grounder and throwing to Taylor Tidwell at second who then threw to Raeleen Gutierrez at first base.
“My defense came in clutch,” said Kilponen, who threw 123 pitches. “They were huge getting the double plays, getting the pop flies, getting the groundballs. In an instance like that I’m just trying to get outs and my defense was huge helping me.”