Tuesday wasn’t the first time the LSU softball team identified a potential turning point in its unexpectedly erratic season.
The Tigers are hoping this one sticks.
After grinding out a 12-inning win and invoking the run rule to claim a series at Mississippi State last weekend, No. 14 LSU has three weeks to craft its newest turning point into momentum for the postseason. The final 11-game stretch of the regular season begins with a midweek game against Northwestern State at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Tiger Park.
“It felt very different, the way they played Saturday and then the way they came back again on Sunday,” coach Beth Torina said. “So we’re hoping that’s our moment, hoping we can go forward from there and continue to build.”
Saturday’s game could have been a turning point in the opposite direction. The night before, the Tigers (32-13) dropped their fifth straight Southeastern Conference game with a 7-2, series-opening loss to the worst offensive team in the league.
They entered the seventh inning of Game 2 trailing 1-0 and on the brink of losing their fourth of six SEC series. But LSU exited the inning leading 2-1, partly thanks to a home run by senior Bianka Bell.
But Mississippi State rallied in the bottom half to force extra innings. The Tigers finally broke the tie and evened the series with a three-run 12th that players said displayed their fight.
“It was huge. That just shows guts,” said junior infielder/catcher Sahvanna Jaquish, whose two-run single in the 12th helped clinch Game 2. “I feel like whoever was going to come out with a win was the team that had more guts and never stopped fighting.”
LSU needed far fewer innings to dispose of the Bulldogs on Sunday, winning 12-1 in its first mercy-rule victory since March 15. Bell punctuated her big weekend with a grand slam that may have finally broken her weeks-long slump.
Sunday perhaps also ended the Tigers’ lack of timely hitting — the team collected six hits with runners in scoring position after it went 2-for-50 in such situations in its previous six SEC contests.
“We were productive that day,” senior catcher Kellsi Kloss said. “It’s something we need to continue to carry with us. It’s not something we can do for just one week. We need to keep doing it every single game from here on out.”
The Lady Demons (24-18) bring an offense that might require some more clutch hitting from LSU. Northwestern State has belted 43 home runs, 12 of which belong to Kellye Kincannon. Two others have hit eight or more home runs, helping the Lady Demons score nearly five runs per game.
Torina said the Tigers will need to bring their “A-game” to beat Northwestern State.
Luckily for her, LSU may have just rediscovered its full potential.
“I think you’re seeing it right now: We’re turning the corner a little bit and becoming a cohesive unit instead of 23 individuals,” Kloss said. “I think we’re finally starting to become one and show what LSU softball is really about.”