LSU softball splits SEC opening doubleheader at Tennessee

LSU’s softball team positioned itself for a doubleheader sweep in its Southeastern Conference opening series at Tennessee.

The No. 12 Tigers, who took a 2-1 victory in eight innings in Saturday’s opening game, carried a one-run lead into the bottom of the seventh of Game 2 with relief pitcher Ali Kilponen set to face the bottom of the Volunteers’ lineup.

No. 22 Tennessee (18-2, 1-1) managed to tie the game with a run in the seventh and Ivy Davis’ solo home run in the eighth lifted the Volunteers to a 4-3 victory, resulting in a split of the doubleheader.

The two teams meet in the series finale at noon Sunday.

“I think the whole day was a battle,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina said. “We had some kids that fought really hard. Taylor Pleasants put a great swing on her home run ball and we got some really good pitching out of both (Shelbi) Sunseri and Kilponen.”

Tennessee 4, LSU 3 (8): For the second straight game LSU (14-7, 1-1 in SEC) turned to Kilponen in relief after a solid effort from starting pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch through 5.1 innings.

Gorsuch battled back after permitting a two-run homer in the first inning to allow only two base runners between the second and sixth innings when LSU coach Beth Torina came out to make the switch with one out in the sixth to Kilponen, the winning pitcher in Game 1.

Kilponen (3-3) preserved LSU’s 3-2 lead going into the seventh when she allowed a lead-off bloop single and double to the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters.

Following the first out of the inning Kilponen was able to get a ground ball to first baseman Rayleen Gutierrez who stepped on the bag for the second out and then fired home.

With UT’s runner breaking from third base for home, LSU catcher Morgan Cummins was charged with an error after dropping the throw from Gutierrez that tied the game at 3-3.

LSU, which got a lead-off single from Taylor Pleasants in the eighth, wound up hitting into an inning-ending double play and Davis drove a 0-1 pitch from Kilponen over the wall in left field for the game-winning run.

Kilponen (3-3) suffered the loss, allowing three hits, two runs (one earned) with two strikeouts and a walk in 1.2 innings. Gorsuch worked the first 5.1 of the game, yielding three hits, two runs with three walks and two strikeouts.

LSU cut UT’s early deficit to 2-1 with an unearned run in the third inning and took the lead with a pair of runs in the fifth. Aliyah Andrews tripled in a run and Pleasants drove in a second run with an RBI-groundout.

The Tigers offense was limited to a total of seven hits in the two games with Pleasants registering the lone home run in her team’s Game 1 win.

LSU 2, Tennessee 1 (8): Kilponen came on in relief of starter Shelbi Sunseri and delivered three scoreless innings, keeping the Tigers tied at 1-1.

Kilponen stranded runners at second and third base in the sixth inning and after allowing a one-out walk and hitting a batter in the eighth, she got Davis to bounce into a game-ending double play with third baseman Amanda Doyle stepping on third base for the force out and throwing to Gutierrez at first base for the final out.

Kilponen struck out three and walked one during her outing.

LSU wound up with only four hits against UT losing pitcher Ashley Rogers, but it was the final hit off the bat of Pleasants that provided the difference.

Pleasants, who struck out and flied out in her previous three plate appearances, cranked a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right field.

LSU broke a scoreless tie in the fifth when Andrews pulled an 0-2 pitch to the right side for an infield single. Pinch-runner Akiya Thymes, who replaced Cummins on the bases after she was hit by a pitch, came home to score on the play when Rogers’ throw was mishandled at first base.

Sunseri, who stranded runners at third base in both the fourth and fifth innings, allowed her first run of the game when Calin Hannon led off the sixth with a home run.

Sunseri allowed six hits, one run, struck out four and didn’t walk anyone.

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William Weathers

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