It’s hard to argue with the effort LSU’s softball team put forth.
The No. 15 Tigers twice rallied from two-run deficits against Ole Miss ace Anna Borgen to pull even at 4-all after six innings, but it was the team’s inability to sustain their offensive momentum that ultimately proved to be their undoing.
LSU stranded 10 base runners, including leaving the bases loaded in the seventh inning, setting the stage for an explosion an inning later from Ole Miss, on the strength of two home runs, which scored five runs in the top of the eighth and handed the Tigers a 9-4 setback Saturday in the final game of their three-game Southeastern Conference series at Tiger Park.
“It’s disappointing,” LSU third baseman Amanda Doyle said. “We had opportunities to win the game in regulation. We definitely showed a lot of good things throughout this game, we showed a lot of fight. Obviously, not the outcome that we wanted, but we showed a lot of good things.”
The series finale followed a familiar script between the two teams with LSU (21-12, 6-6 in SEC) able to outlast Ole Miss (22-13, 6-6) in a pair of one-run games Thursday and Friday to capture the series.
Ole Miss led 2-0 on the power of a pair of solo homers and extended that margin to 4-2 in the fifth inning against LSU starting pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch.
The Tigers, who had only one hit against Borgen through three innings, scored twice in the fourth, once in the fifth and tied the game in the sixth on a soft liner from Ciara Briggs into left field.
But in what turned into a reoccurring theme for LSU, which had a series-best 10 hits, the Tigers couldn’t ride the wave into potentially bigger innings.
“It is frustrating, without question,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina said. “I think we didn’t execute some things at times that would have led to us winning, but I still think we played well this weekend and I think we definitely have something to build on.”
LSU stranded two base runners in three consecutive innings from the fourth to the seventh, a span in which they picked up seven of its 10 hits.
Ole Miss reliever Savannah Diederich (9-7) came in relief of Borgen in the fifth and allowed only one run on five hits. She walked two and struck out three.
Briggs’ run-scoring single came with one out, but Diederich struck out Aliyah Andrews and for Danieca Coffey to ground out.
After reliever Shelbi Sunseri worked a perfect seventh inning, the Tigers loaded the bases with two outs. Raeleen Gutierrez (3-for-4) delivered her third straight double and Sunseri walked to load the bases when catcher Cait Calland, backed by an enthusiastic crowd that had risen to its feet, popped up to second base after working the count full.
Ole Miss, which had scored two runs against LSU’s pitching in the first two games of the series, finished with 11 hits with four of those being home runs.
First baseman Sydney Gutierrez led off the eighth with her first homer of the season for the go-ahead run against Sunseri. Ninth-place hitter Tate Whitley lined a two-out single up the middle and third baseman Paige Smith homered for the second time in the game – her 3-run shot to left-center ending Sunseri’s outing.
Sunseri (6-4) took the loss, allowing six runs (four earned) on seven hits with two strikeouts. Gorsuch pitched four innings, gave up four hits and three runs and had five strikeouts.
Briggs (2-for-3) singled to lead off the eighth but was stranded at second base – the seventh time in the game for LSU – when Diederich got the next three batters out.
LSU finally broke through against Borgen, who retired nine of the first 10 batters she faced, on a double from Gutierrez which brought in two runs in the fourth with a shot that one-hopped the wall in center field.
Sunseri then walked and Jordyn Perkins, pinch-hitting for Calland, lined out to third base to close the inning.
Ole Miss immediately regained the lead with a pair of runs in the fifth when Sunseri, on in relief of Gorsuch, allowed back-to-back hits sandwiched around a fielding error to make it 4-2.
LSU got one back in the fifth when Andrews singled in Briggs when Diederich entered the game and struck out Georgia Clark and Doyle flied out to center with runners at first and third.
The Tigers tied the game at 4-all in the sixth after Raeleen Gutierrez led off with a double and scored on Briggs’ one-out single to left. Andrews then struck out and Coffey bounced out.
“I think we’re continuing to grow and we’re doing a lot of things well, so we’ll just keep building,” Torina said. “We have Louisiana Tech on Tuesday so that will be a good opportunity for us to keep working, keep building just keep having consistent at bats making quality pitches and solid defense.”