No. 12 Tigers win softball series over No. 7 Texas

LSU senior Aliyah Andrews belts the second homer of her career and the first to clear the fence in the Tigers' 7-2 series clinching win over Texas Saturday night at Tiger Park.

It took LSU senior Aliyah Andrews five seasons and 737 at bats to achieve her first career home run – an inside-the-park – in Tuesday’s victory over Southern Mississippi.

Four days and 10 plate appearances later, Andrews managed to do one better. 

She cleared the fence for the first time with a solo homer in the fourth inning, and the No. 12 Tigers went on to a doubleheader sweep Saturday over No. 7 Texas with a 7-2 victory in the nightcap at Tiger Park.

LSU (13-6) rallied to win the opening game Saturday, 2-1, in eight innings, becoming the first team this season to defeat Texas (10-2). The Longhorns won the completion of Friday night’s rain-delayed opener, 8-5, before the start of the scheduled doubleheader.

“It’s a loud noise that our team’s going to be more confident,” LSU softball coach Beth Torina said. “Hopefully, our team will be respected for who they are, but ultimately it’s a great day for our program and something they deserve.”

Andrews put together quite a doubleheader, going 5-of-8 with three RBIs, but nothing was more memorable than her plate appearance in with one out in the fourth.

With Texas’ infield completely shifted to the left side in anticipation of a bunt, Andrews got a hold of an 0-1 inside pitch from Texas’ losing pitcher Ryleigh White and drove it 216 feet off the bottom of the scoreboard in right field for a 6-0 lead.

“I saw them move over and I was expecting an inside pitch,” Andrews said. “Usually when they do that, I’m going to get all outside (pitches). The rest of the series they had been coming in on me and I wasn’t expecting that. I just went for it and it went farther than I thought.”

LSU hit three home runs among its eight hits. Shelbi Sunseri (3 of 5, 2 RBIs in the doubleheader) homered for the fourth time this season in the first inning and freshman Cait Calland’s first hit of her college career was a solo homer in the sixth.,

Starting pitcher Ali Kilponen (2-2) limited Texas to three runs (two earned) on 11 hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks.

Kilponen had a stretch through the fourth inning where she retired nine straight batters and 12 of 13 through the fifth. She yielded seven hits, two runs (one earned) and struck out six with two walks.

LSU continued its momentum from its Game 2 victory, taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Sunseri’s 2-run homer and added three more in the second for a commanding 5-0 lead.

Andrews drove in Taylor Tidwell with a run-scoring single up the middle and Taylor Pleasants, after a pitching change to reliever Courtney Day, delivered a 2-run double off the top of the left field wall.

“This is a team with constant fight,” Sunseri said. “We’re never going to back down and you saw that today with what we showed. That’s something you’re going to continue to see that this is a team of nothing but fight. We’re going to fight until the last pitch.”

LSU 2, Texas 1 (8): Tidwell was hit by a pitch to lead off the eighth and was replaced by pinch-runner Akiya Thymes. Following an out, Andrews lined a single toward the line in left which was misplayed by Texas’ Kaitlyn Washington, allowing the ball to get past her and enabled Thymes to score the winning run.

LSU trailed 1-0 and was down to its final out of the sixth inning when designated player Danieca Coffey, the ninth-place hitter, doubled to right-center and snapped a stretch of 13 consecutive batters retired by Texas starting pitcher Molly Jacobsen.

Andrews then slapped a single to shallow center field that drove in Coffey with the tying run.

Sunseri (4-2) was the winning pitcher with a complete-game effort that took 97 pitches. She allowed four hits and one run – a solo homer in the fourth – with seven strikeouts and no walks.

“Winning that first game of the day really set a tone and really helped us moving to the next one,” Sunseri said. “It really gave us the momentum to go forward to start strong.”

Sunseri was the beneficiary of a key defensive play in the second inning when left fielder Ciara Briggs, after a single from Taylor Ellsworth, threw to catcher Morgan Cummins to nab Sullivan trying to score from second base.

LSU nearly answered Texas’ home run in the bottom of the fourth when Pleasants sent a deep drive to center with the wind blowing out but was robbed by Texas center fielder Shannon Rhodes who went over the wall for the second out of the inning.

Texas 8, LSU 5: In a resumption of Friday’s rain-delayed series opener that was tied at 5-5 entering the final inning, the Longhorns scored three times with two out in the top of the seventh and the Tigers were retired in order.

Texas pinch-hitter Taylor Ellsworth slapped a 2-run single to left-center field and Janae Jefferson pushed home another run for what became a three-run victory margin with an infield single just out of the reach of Pleasants at shortstop.

Jacobsen, who took over for starter Shea O’Leary in the sixth, was the winning pitcher. She allowed two runs and an unearned run in 1.1 innings with four strikeouts, including the final two outs of the game.

LSU rallied from a 5-1 lead with four runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull even at 5-all. Back-to-back homers from Tidwell – a two-run shot – and Ali Newland – made it 5-4. Andrews, who reached on an error, scored on Amanda Doyle’s RBI-single to center field.

“It was a great day for our team, two big team wins,” Torina said. “A lot of people contributed and did a lot of big things from top to bottom. It was a big day for our program.”

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William Weathers

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