BATON ROUGE, La. – In the final game of the 2016 Purple and Gold Challenge, the fifth-ranked LSU softball team got out on the good foot early by scoring four runs in the very first inning, while getting a career-high 15 strikeouts from Carley Hoover in the circle to defeat the Texas Tech Red Raiders 5-3 Sunday afternoon in Tiger Park.
After the two sides played a nail-biting thriller on Saturday night, another looked to be on tap for the finale on Sunday until the sophomore Hoover (5-0) stifled the Red Raider (6-10) offense to the tune of three hits, with 101 of her 137 pitches for strikes in the victory. She walked just one in the game and struck out three batters three times on the day.
“We did a good job. Texas Tech played us hard two games and I thought they did a nice job against us,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I’m happy to come away with two wins against them. We got a great performance on the mound, some timely hitting and we had some kids who have been great performers for us in the past step up and do their jobs and that’s always fun to see.”
In almost a repeat of last night’s heroics, the only difference on Sunday was that a key pair of home runs helped vault the Tigers in the same inning as Sahvanna Jaquish and Bailey Landry were the catalysts for all four runs as Jaquish hit a solo shot, with Landry connecting for a three-run homer to give LSU (13-2) a lead it would not relinquish.
“It felt really good off the bat. I was really focused going into that at bat,” Landry said. “We had runners on and we had to score some runs early in the game.”
Senior Bianka Bell earned two of LSU’s five hits in the contest, going 2-for-2 at the plate with a run scored and getting hit by a pitch, as Jaquish and Landry had two, with Emily Griggs having the other LSU hit on the afternoon.
Nearly earning the upset the previous night, Texas Tech pitcher Mattison Maisel (2-2) suffered the loss as she lasted just 1.2 innings and allowed all four runs on three hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Cheyene Powell pitched the remaining 4.1 innings and allowed a run on two hits with a walk and strikeout. Jordan Bettiol had two of Texas Tech’s three hits on Sunday.
The two-out warriors took to the bottom of the first and opened shop as Jaquish took a 2-1 count and lifted it into the Terrace area to put LSU up 1-0. Bell followed up with a double down the right field line to reach, as Kellsi Kloss was walked to put two on. In a nearly identical location, Landry was 1-1 in the count and blasted it to left for the three-run home run to put the Tigers up 4-0.
“It’s always great when you can put up big numbers at the beginning of the game. It gives our defense a lot of confidence and takes a lot of pressure of our pitcher,” Jaquish said.
The Red Raiders got more than one back in the third inning, as with one out a walk and infield single put two on, with an infield grounder advancing the two to second and third with two outs on the board. A wild pitch brought in a run, with Hoover hitting one to put runners at the corners. Looking to get out of the inning, an error kept Texas Tech alive as two runs came in to cut into the LSU lead to just one at 4-3, before a strikeout ended the inning.
Griggs led off the bottom of the third with an infield single to reach first, as an error by Texas Tech put two on. Bell was hit by pitch to load the bases, but a strikeout and a groundout into a double play ended the Tiger frame without a score.
A single to open the fourth put a runner on for Texas Tech, as a hit batter put two on for the visitors. After a change at the plate and on the bases for Texas Tech, the moves did little to make an impact as Hoover struck out the next three to end the inning and give her nine through four and keeping the LSU lead intact.
Constance Quinn was hit by pitch on the first at-bat of the bottom of the fifth, as after an out, Jaquish drew a walk before Bell ripped an infield single to third to load the bases. Kloss hit a deep enough fly to bring in Quinn, to put a run on the board and give LSU a 5-3 lead.
While an error in the frame put a runner on second, Hoover remained consistent in the circle, already having a strikeout before, getting the next two after to close the door and send the team to its ninth-straight win.
“I’m not really worried about my numbers. I’m just worried about the win and the fact that we got a W today is all that matters to me,” Hoover said.