OKLAHOMA CITY — LSU senior Sandra Simmons has had a power surge during the postseason.
She led off with a tone-setting home run in the Tigers 6-4 win against Alabama in an elimination game at the Women’s College World Series on Saturday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
That was Simmons’ fourth postseason home run after hitting just two in the regular season.
She hit key homers in wins against Kentucky and Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference tournament and drove in the Tigers first run in the super regional against James Madison with a solo homer in the fifth inning to tie a game LSU eventually lost 3-2.
“I’ve just been trying to square the ball up hard,” Simmons said. “I’ve been studying film, just trusting and not over thinking in the box and just getting the contact and kind of working my extension a little bit more than I have in the past.”
Saturday was the first time an LSU player started a game with a home run since Kirsten Shortridge did it at Hawaii at 2009.
“She’s a special, special player for us,” coach Beth Torina said of Simmons. “A big reason why we’re sitting here today is because of the effort she’s put in here at the end of the season.”
Next up: Georgia
With half the WCWS field comprising Southeastern Conference teams, it was likely LSU would run into some familiar faces.
After beating Alabama, the Tigers advanced to face Georgia in an elimination game at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2).
The Tigers won two of three games against the Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia, on April 1-3. That was an important series for LSU because it had just been swept at home by Flroida and was on the verge of losing the series opener. It trailed 4-1 in the seventh, but Allie Walljasper’s two-out, pinch-hit, two-run home run triggered a four-run rally and the Tigers won 5-4.
LSU won the next day 5-1 before Georgia won the series finale 3-1.
Sluggers play small ball
Bianka Bell, Sahvanna Jaquish and Kellsi Kloss rank one, two and three, respectively, in career homers for LSU and they follow that same order in the heart of the Tigers lineup.
But they showed they know a little it about small ball when they collaborated on LSU’s second run.
Bell led off the third inning with a single and she went from first to third when Jaquish sacrificed. Kloss followed with an RBI-grounder to second.
“That was a huge moment for those guys,” Torina said. “When one of the best players in the entire country (Jaquish) is going to lay down a bunt, that sets a tone for our team. Bianka moving up to third, just being in the game, in the moment, she’s a great player like that.
“And Kellsi understanding that her role right there is just to do a job — that’s huge and says so much about the team-first hitting approach.”
Hoover beats Tide again
Alabama has seen enough of Carley Hoover to last it a while.
In Hoover’s two seasons, LSU is 4-1 against the Crimson Tide and Hoover has three wins a save, throwing a total of 22.1 innings and compiling an earned run average of 2.53.
Walljasper, who got the save Saturday and won the WCWS game that Hoover saved against Alabama last season, has a 3.50 ERA in three appearances covering 10 innings.
Tide right-hander Sydney Littlejohn, who has the lone Tide win against the Tigers the last two seasons has struggled against them overall. She is 1-2 with an ERA of 5.13.
LSU is making its fifth appearance in the WCWS and improved to 9-8. … The Tigers eliminated Alabama for the second consecutive season, having beaten the Tide 5-3 last season. … LSU has never failed to win a game after reaching the WCWS. … The Tigers matched their highest WCWS run total. They beat Auburn 6-1 in their opener last season.
-- Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.