After losing two of three games to LSU in Knoxville three weeks ago, the Tennessee softball team got even in a big way Thursday night in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Tennessee hammered out six extra base hits — including three home runs in the final four innings and three doubles — to claim a 7-5 victory over LSU in the tournament quarterfinals in Tiger Park.
Tennessee (41-13) advanced to Friday’s semifinals, where the Lady Vols will go against top-ranked and No. 2 seed Florida at 4:30 p.m. after Alabama and Auburn meet in the first semifinal at 2 p.m.
Eighth-ranked LSU (44-11) will have to wait until 9 p.m. Sunday to learn its NCAA tournament fate. The Tigers are expected to host a four-team regional at Tiger Park next weekend and could land one of eight national seeds when the bids are announced.
Fifth-seeded Tennessee got solo home runs from Meghan Gregg and Megan Geer and a two-run blast from Taylor Koenig as well as a two-run double from Rainey Gaffin, one of the three the Lady Vols had, to secure the victory.
Twice, the big extra-base hits helped Tennessee come from behind against fourth-seeded LSU — helping the Lady Vols erase deficits of 2-0 and 5-3 against the heavy-hitting Tigers.
LSU got to Tennessee starter Gretchen Aucoin early, getting run-scoring singles from Bianka Bell and Emily Griggs off Lady Vols starter Gretchen Aucoin.
Down 2-0, Tennessee struck back for three quick runs off LSU starter Carley Hoover in the fourth.
Hoover allowed just one hit through the first three innings, a leadoff double by nine-hole hitter Tory Lewis in the third, and was sailing along after getting the first two batters in the fourth.
But that’s where she ran into trouble.
Tennessee shortstop Meghan Gregg, who had the game-winning, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 5-4 victory over Kentucky on Wednesday night, hammered a solo homer to center field to cut the Lady Vols’ deficit in half.
Then, after a single by Lexi Overstreet, Taylor Koenig belted a low line drive well over the right-center field wall to give Tennessee its first lead at 3-2.
LSU mounted a mild threat in its half of the fourth, getting runners on first and second with one out and the top of the order coming up. But Tennessee reliever Erin Gabriel struck out A.J. Andrews and got Bailey Landry to pop up.
LSU rebounded, however, with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to regain the lead at 5-3.
Bell opened the inning with a long home run to the back of the berm in left field and Constance Quinn and Sydney Griggs delivered back-to-back run-scoring singles.
Tennessee kept up its assault on LSU after Tigers coach Beth Torina brought in Allie Walljasper.
After one out in the sixth, Tennessee had two runners on when Gaffin hit a two-run double to the base of the wall and Shaliyah Geathers brought her home with another double.
Tennessee capped off their 11-hit night when Geer belted a leadoff homer in the seventh to give her team a little insurance before LSU went down in order in the bottom of the inning.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.