After the sing-off and dance contest between the LSU and Northwestern State softball teams subsided, the real battle resumed.
The No. 14 Tigers claimed that one, securing a 6-1 victory Wednesday night in Tiger Park despite a rain delay spanning 2 hours, 13 minutes. Players said they didn’t have trouble refocusing after the break and instead carried that carefree attitude into the game once it resumed.
“I think our team plays well when they’re loose, so it’s nice to still see them staying loose,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “It’s really tough to stay focused in a game like this. It’s harder than you’d think, but I thought they did a good job of that.”
Sophomore pitcher Allie Walljasper cruised through the first two innings preceding the delay while her offense battled a recurring problem.
LSU (33-13), which hoped to build on the shot of momentum it received from claiming a series at Mississippi State last weekend, loaded the bases without recording an out in the bottom of the first.
But a double-play lineout and a popout ended the early threat, mirroring the myriad baserunners the Tigers stranded in getting swept by Florida and Kentucky earlier this season.
Officials enacted the weather delay after a quiet second inning that featured just one hit by each team. LSU senior infielder Bianka Bell eventually got her hands on a microphone and challenged the Lady Demons (24-19) to a sing-off, which prompted the rain-delay festivities.
NSU left fielder Natalie Landry belted Beyoncé’s “Formation” and Tigers catcher Sahvanna Jaquish countered with a stunning rendition of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” before the teams engaged in a lengthy dance-off.
“We were just trying to keep things light and make the best of the situation,” said sophomore center fielder Emily Griggs, one of the main participants in the dance contest.
That was just what LSU needed.
The top of the Tigers’ order came up in the bottom of the third inning and produced three runs courtesy of Jaquish’s team-leading 11th home run of the season.
“I’m happy we had that rain break because it loosened us up and really just got us into the moment. ... We’re not a good ‘focused’ team,” Jaquish said. “I know that sounds weird, but we play best when we’re crazy, relaxed and having fun.”
LSU added another run in the next inning via senior first baseman Sandra Simmons’ RBI double. Classmate Kellsi Kloss later faced a two-out, bases-loaded situation after walks to Bell and Jaquish, but her popout marked the second time the team stranded three runners in an inning.
After the Tigers left a runner at third base in the fifth, their clutch hitting woes evaporated.
Jaquish came through again with an RBI single and later scored on Kloss’ double. Both insurance runs crossed the plate with two outs, but LSU still left seven of its nine stranded runners in scoring position.
Meanwhile, Walljasper struck out seven batters while tossing a three-hit complete game. One of those hits, however, was a sixth-inning solo home run by .408 hitter Kellye Kincannon, her 13th of the year.
Jaquish, who finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs, led the way for the Tigers both at the plate and in the singing contest. She needed a few moments to decide which contribution was more rewarding.
“That’s a close call,” she said with a smile. “I’d have to say the home run.”