Mother Nature threatened to snuff out the little momentum the LSU softball team had finally wrested from Alabama.
Held to only one hit through the first three innings, the Tigers entered the bottom of the fourth facing a 3-0 deficit. Center fielder Emily Griggs and third baseman Bianka Bell both singled through the left side, giving LSU much-needed life in Game 2 of this weekend’s series.
Then the drizzle over Tiger Park became a downpour, one that created a half-hour weather delay. That didn’t deter junior catcher Sahvanna Jaquish, who resumed action with a game-tying home run, her ninth of the season.
But Alabama succeeded where Mother Nature failed.
The Crimson Tide stormed back for five runs in the next half-inning and held on to even the series with a 10-3 win Saturday night. The Tigers (22-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) committed four of their six errors in that disastrous fifth, though they claimed the rain delay didn’t disrupt their focus.
“I think our mentality had more to do with all the errors (than the weather),” Jaquish said. “Once we made one error, we all thought were were going to make errors. That was the problem.”
The fifth inning wasn’t the only source of grief for LSU.
In her first outing since Feb. 27 with an undisclosed arm injury, sophomore pitcher Allie Walljasper struggled through the first two innings. She surrendered five hits across the innings, two to leadoff batters Haylie McCleney and Demi Turner.
Cleanup hitter Leona Lafaele tapped a one-out grounder into a routine fielder’s choice that scored McCleney, but she reached when Bell’s throw sailed wide of first base. Walljasper recorded two quick outs to end the threat, but more trouble awaited her in the second inning.
The Tide (22-3, 1-1 SEC) got two runners aboard before McCleney smacked a one-out single to double its lead. LSU recorded its second out of the inning when Walljasper induced a routine fielder’s choice, but Jaquish’s attempt to turn two at first base was off the mark and allowed McCleney to score.
Walljasper closed the inning but exited the game with as many earned runs as she had amassed in her previous 33 innings this season.
“I thought Allie was (100 percent),” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “But obviously she didn’t get it done tonight.”
Freshman Sydney Smith gave up a single to the first batter she faced but recovered to retire three straight. She cruised until the fifth inning, which she would have escaped if not for the Tigers’ slew of errors — choppers ate up shortstop Amber Serrett and first baseman Sandra Simmons, and Alayna Falcon struggled to scoop a ball in left field.
“Things are going to happen. Things are not going to go our way,” Smith said. “But the one thing we do have is that we didn’t get frustrated. We worked pitch-to-pitch and tried to get outs.Things aren’t always going to go our way.”
None of Alabama’s five runs in that inning were charged to Smith, who left the circle in favor of sophomore Carley Hoover.
LSU’s ace didn’t fare much better. Hoover, who earned the win in Game 1 on Friday, surrendered a two-run homer to designated player Marisa Runyon in the top of the sixth, capping the Tide’s win.
The Tigers, who managed only six hits, left the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning and stranded two runners in scoring position in the seventh.
Torina’s message to her team as it preps for Sunday’s 2 p.m. rubber match was a simple one — move on.
“I’m not sure we can play much worse than we did tonight, honestly,” Torina said. “I thought we played terribly. It’s one of those things where they just have to move on and get over it. I don’t think there’s a fix for all of the things that happened tonight except chalking it up to a bad day.
“We don’t have a day to practice or work on things, so at this point we have to get back to our mentality of playing good softball.”