LSU’s hot fourth-inning bats on a chilly day melts North Dakota

Amanda Doyle tied a LSU softball record with two home runs in one inning, including a grand slam, in the Tigers' 19-3 run-rule win over North Dakota on a frigid Wednesday afternoon at Tiger Park.

There was very little inviting about Wednesday afternoon’s game played in freezing wind chills to suggest something historic would take place for LSU’s eighth-ranked softball team.

But thanks to the prodigious bat of third baseman Amanda Doyle, the Tigers tied the school record for most runs in an inning with 15 in the bottom of the fourth en route to a 19-3 mercy-rule victory in five innings over North Dakota.

“It was a good mental toughness moment for our team, a moment to grow a little bit,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina said. “It was challenging conditions. You really had to wrap your head around the fact that we were going out there and really doing it. I think it will make our team tougher in the long run.”

During LSU’s fourth-inning surge, Doyle tied a school record of hitting two homers set by Kelsi Kloss at Louisiana Tech in 2016.

She plated the Tigers’ first run by slapping a solo homer on a 1-2 pitch from North Dakota reliever Nikki Pica over the right field fence.

“It looked really nice, maybe a curveball,” Doyle said. “It was nice, and I just got a good piece of it and made sure I made adjustments from my previous at bats.”

Nine batters, four hits, four walks and five runs later, Doyle parked a 3-1 offering from North Dakota reliever No. 2 Lauren Feld over the centerfield fence for a grand slam.

North Dakota was one strike away from getting out of the inning when LSU freshman pinch-hitter Ali Newland’s first college at-bat ended with her launching an 0-2 pitch off North Dakota reliever No. 3 Jannay Jones for a grand slam homer.

Aliyah Andrews grounded out to end LSU’s historic inning in which the Tigers sent 17 batters to the plate and produced seven (three homers, two doubles, two singles) of their game-total 10 hits.

Doyle went 3-for-4 with a career-high 7 RBIs while left fielder Ciara Briggs was 2-2 with a double and 2 RBIs. Newland earned her 4 RBIs with one swing of the bat.

Torina continued to heap praise on Doyle who is off to a torrid start, hitting .571 with a 1.643 slugging percentage to go with five homers and 11 RBIs.

“Everyone’s so proud of her,” Torina said. “The team just spent a few minutes singing her praises and talking about what she means to us. I told the team she does the impossible: she is the picture of the picture of consistency in an inconsistent world in an inconsistent game. She shows up the same way every day. She gives us her best effort every time she takes the field. The way she’s playing is so well deserved.”

Shortstop Taylor Pleasants gave LSU a 1-0 lead in the first and Doyle’s two-RBI single followed an RBI groundout from Taylor Tidwell for a 4-0 lead through three innings.

Freshman Morgan Smith (1-0) carried a no-hitter in her collegiate debut through 3.2 innings when North Dakota first baseman Madison Pederson singled on an 0-2 pitch to right field. The Fighting Hawks (1-4) went on to score twice in the inning on three hits and trailed, 4-2.

Smith allowed five hits, three runs (two earned), walked three and didn’t issue a walk in her 72-pitch outing.

Then came LSU’s avalanche of runs in the fourth, setting up the mercy-rule ending in the fifth for North Dakota.

“I was proud of the way the team came today and didn’t let the cold affect them,” Doyle said. “I was just doing what I normally do and tried to have a good time out there no matter the conditions.”

LSU (3-1) returns to action this weekend with four games in the two-day Bama Bash in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers face Liberty and fifth-ranked Alabama at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. respectively, on Saturday and conclude play Sunday against the same two teams at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.  

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William Weathers

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