It was the kind of moment that brought LSU softball coach Beth Torina to tears.
With the Tigers steamrolling their way through the bottom of the sixth and on the verge of a mercy-rule win over McNeese State, Torina turned to little-used pinch-hitter Jordyn Perkins to punctuate Friday’s victory in resounding fashion.
Perkins, hitting .143 with a RBI on the season, drove a pitch to the wall in right-center field that brought in the game’s final two runs for a walk-off double and capped LSU’s 10-2 triumph over McNeese State at Tiger Park.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Torina said of Perkins’ moment. “She’s a great human being. She works hard. She’s a great hitter. She’s been waiting her turn for a long time behind some great players.”
Top-seeded LSU (33-19) advanced in the double-elimination NCAA regional where they’ll face second-seeded UL-Lafayette, a 1-0 winner in 11 innings over third-seeded George Washington, in Saturday’s second round at 2 p.m.
With Perkins providing the final act, LSU’s offense put on quite a display with double-digit runs and hits (12) in the same game for the eighth time this season.
The 12 hits matched the Tigers second-best performance of the season and was their highest total since April 11 against Missouri.
“We knew we had to hit a lot of line drives with the way the wind was playing,” LSU third baseman Amanda Doyle said. “Just went out there aiming for singles and doubles and that’s what we did, plus some. I was proud of the way we were swinging it and being aggressive.”
Doyle hit two of her team’s three home runs with winning pitcher Shelbi Sunseri adding the other long ball to eclipse an early 1-0 deficit after McNeese (34-25) scored in the top of the first.
Doyle hit her first homer in the bottom half of the first, a 1-0 offering from losing pitcher Whitney Tate that carried out to right field with a little help from a persistent 17-mile-per-hour wind blowing out that direction.
LSU never trailed again. The Tigers made it 4-1 on Sunseri’s two-run homer in the fourth, tacked on Doyle’s second shot in the fifth – both of which went to right field – before Perkins applied the final touches in her team’s offensive outburst.
“It was probably the biggest moment of the game,” Torina said of Doyle’s first-inning homer. “When they came out and scored first it makes us a little tentative. You’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop and we were able to answer right there. It was a huge moment for us. Both times they scored we were able to answer. Keeping that continuous pressure on throughout really sends a message, sends a statement.”
Seven of LSU’s nine starters had at least one hit led by Doyle’s 2-for-4 effort with four RBIs, Sunseri (2-3, RBI) and Georgia Clark (2-3, RBI) while all nine of the Tigers’ batters reached base safely.
“It was really cool to see our offense come through,” Sunseri said. “We’ve had some ups and some downs this year. We came back from the SEC tournament and put in some work. We worked on some stuff this week when we had time to focus on just us as individuals and it paid off.”
Sunseri (10-6) allowed four hits – all singles – walked one, struck out three and hit a batter in her complete-game effort.
She did plenty of damage at the plate where after an out and Raeleen Gutierrez’s single, crushed a homer off the scoreboard in the fourth to make it 4-1. It was her seventh home run of the season, but first in her last 26 games that covered 53 plate appearances.
“She just proved what an incredible player she is,” Torina said. “We all know how great she is, but she just went on and made a statement. She’s really fearless for us. She was so great with these game one moments for us. I love what she did on the mound for us. She swung the bat well for us. It was a great day for a great player.”
McNeese closed to 4-2 on Jil Poullard’s sacrifice fly to center but Doyle homered in the fifth – her 10th of the season – and LSU put the game away in the sixth with five runs on five hits.
Seven of eight batters safely reached base in the inning with the Tigers getting run-scoring singles from Clark and Gutierrez to make it 8-2. A walk to Sunseri loaded the bases and Perkins pinch-hit for catcher Morgan Cummins.
She sent a 1-0 offering off the wall in right-center, bringing in pinch-runner Akiya Thymes and Clark and with Perkins jubilantly pulling into second base, she was embraced by teammates eager to celebrate the moment with her.
“It’s really cool to see her come through, to see all the work she’s done pay off,” Sunseri said of Perkins. “She’s so deserving of it.”