Freshman Sydney Smith put the final touches on the LSU softball team’s weekend sweep when she threw a three-hitter in a 2-0 victory against South Carolina on Sunday at Tiger Park.
In doing so, Smith (9-2) extended her streak of scoreless innings against Southeastern Conference competition to 16 innings as the Tigers won their sixth straight game.
“That’s pretty impressive,” LSU coach Beth Torina said after Smith lowered her earned run average to 0.66. “She’s thrown well, and we’re just continuing to build our confidence behind her as a team too. She’s earning all of our confidence, and she deserves it.”
LSU got its first SEC sweep in its second-to-last conference series. Smith’s gem followed a 7-2 win Friday and an 8-0 win shortened to five innings by the mercy rule Saturday.
A record-setting home run by Bianka Bell and home run-stealing catch by Sandra Simmons backed Smith, who didn’t walk a batter.
LSU pitchers held South Carolina scoreless for the final 16 innings of the series and allowed just two unearned runs in the third inning Friday.
“We did a lot of good things this weekend,” Bell said. “We scored a lot of runs, everybody did their job, and the pitchers did a great job in the circle, getting us out of jams.”
The No. 14 Tigers (36-13, 10-11) host McNeese State in a nonconference game Tuesday night. The Gamecocks fell to 32-16 and 5-13.
Smith allowed a one-out double in the second, then got consecutive groundouts. She allowed one-out and two-out infield singles in the sixth but stranded both runners with a pop-out. In the seventh, second baseman Constance Quinn’s error allowed a runner to reach with one out. And one out later, Smith hit Kamryn Watts before ending it with her fourth strikeout.
“I dug deeper when there were runners on first and second, and I realized anything could happen,” Smith said. “I just had to focus.”
LSU had just four hits against South Carolina starter Blue (15-12), who went the distance after two poor outings earlier in the series. She allowed three runs in 2.2 innings of relief Friday, and she started and allowed eight runs in four innings Saturday.
LSU took a 1-0 lead in the second when Sahvanna Jaquish led off with a double, and two outs later, Quinn singled and Jaquish continued home on left fielder Alaynie Page’s error.
South Carolina narrowly missed tying it in the third when Ansley Aid hit a drive to deep left that a leaping Simmons plucked out of the air as the ball was clearing the fence.
“At first I thought it was right to me, and then I realized it was a little deeper, so I just kept going back,” Simmons said. “(Center fielder Emily Griggs) was there and she told me I had room, and I was able to catch it.”
Simmons was an SEC All-Defensive first baseman as a junior last season and just started playing left field a month ago.
“She’s been practicing those,” Smith said matter-of-factly. “I had no doubt she had it.”
In the fourth, Bell drove a pitch far enough over the left-field wall that no one could grab it, and her 10th homer of the season gave Smith an insurance she wouldn’t ultimately need.
That made Bell the first LSU player to have double-digit homers in four seasons.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Bell, who’s the Tigers career home-run leader with 54. “I’m seeing the ball well. I’m just trying to make things happen and get on base.”
Before the game, LSU announced that the softball program has received its first-ever scholarship endowment from the Tiger Athletic Foundation. The scholarship will bear Torina’s name along with that of the donor, Sandra J. Braddock. The TAF Foundation of Champions Scholarship Endowment program was established in 1999 to provide a perpetual source of financial support for athletic scholarships through a general scholarship endowment fund.