Walking away from the circle after her first inning, LSU freshman Carley Hoover lamented many pitches.
In her mind, she missed almost every spot, even though she induced a flyout sandwiched between two strikeouts to get Oklahoma in order. She walked to her customary mid-inning meeting with coach Beth Torina, who tried to calm her emotional freshman.
“She goes out, she gets all amped up by the crowd and I think sometimes that happens to her,” Torina said.
Hoover added: “Sometimes things happen. Coach was just like, ‘Get better.’ So I was trying to get better every inning.”
And she did.
Hoover was masterful, tossing a complete-game two-hit shutout, and LSU career home run leader Bianka Bell crushed her 10th of the season in the sixth inning — a solo shot to dead center field — to provide the run support Hoover needed in a 1-0 victory against the No. 6 Sooners on Friday night.
In a showdown of the most potent offenses in the country, pitching took center stage Friday night with the pair of freshmen dazzling in the circle, scattering only four combined hits.
Bell, who had struck out in her previous at-bat, crushed Oklahoma southpaw Paige Parker’s 0-2 riseball to the packed berm, bringing the crowd of 2,082 to its feet.
“Just come up with a hit and try to find my way on base,” Bell thought as she stepped into the box. “I knew (right off the bat). It felt good.”
Bell’s homer was the only semblance of productive offense for either team. Though not exactly a welcome sign for Torina, she was excited to see her team find a different way to win after following the same formula all season.
Friday’s one run was the lowest output this season and the first time in 30 games the team did not have at least one inning in which it scored three or more runs.
“I thought it was really interesting that our team showed that they have this capability too,” Torina said. “This is the first game where we’ve really pitched and played great defense and been able to throw a shutout. It’s nice to see us able to win in a lot of different ways. This is just another dimension that makes this team really strong.”
Hoover lauded her defense, particularly from Bell at shortstop, which turned nine ground balls into outs, played an error-free game and didn’t allow an Oklahoma runner past second base. The 1-0 shutout was the first absorbed by Oklahoma since 2012.
Locked in the duel with Parker through most of the night and with pressure building in each half-inning, Hoover turned to the crowd — a boisterous, overflow gathering that provided what Hoover called the best atmosphere she’d ever played before.
“We won the crowd over tonight,” Hoover said. “The fans had just as big a part of this as we did. I literally couldn’t hear myself think in the seventh inning. It was huge.”