GAINESVILLE, Fla. — LSU softball slugger Sahvanna Jaquish said before making the trip to Gainesville that the No. 3 ranked Tigers were going to treat Friday’s game against the No.1 Florida Gators like it was a national championship game.
The atmosphere for LSU’s first true road game of the season was absolutely electric.
The battle between the two undefeated teams turned out to be emotionally taxing for the Tigers.
With two outs and the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Carley Hoover’s ball four pitch to Taylor Fuller got past Tigers catcher Kellsi Kloss, allowing Briana Little to score the winning run.
Just like that LSU (25-1, 0-1) is no longer undefeated, having lost 4-3.
“We played emotional at times tonight,” said LSU coach Beth Torina. “We swung at the plate with our emotions instead of swinging with our heads and our eyes. There were emotional moments instead of being intelligent, taking smart risks, trusting the plan. We need to leave our emotions out of it and be a little more level-headed.”
The Tigers had their backs completely against the wall when they came to plate in the seventh inning trailing 3-2. Forcing the Gators to bat in the bottom half of the inning was an emotional roller coaster ride in itself.
The Tigers sent the top of the order to the plate to face Lauren Haeger in relief of starter Aleshia Ocasio.
A.J. Andrews took a high, inside pitch on what looked like the shoulder as the left-hander attempt to slap her way on base. She lay on the dirt momentarily before walking to first.
Bailey Landry followed and surprised Haegar with a bunt and beat the throw from the pitcher.
Bianka Bell, already with three singles on the night, came to the plate and smashed her fourth to left field. When the ball was hit it seemed like a foregone conclusion that LSU was going to tie the game, but the ball was hit so hard though that Gators left fielder Brianna Little barely had to move. She made a perfect strike to catcher Aubree Munro to get the speedy Andrews by two steps.
That seemed to completely take the wind out of LSU’s sails.
Jaquish followed and fisted a Haegar offering that was juggling at first base by Taylor Schwarz. She controlled it though to record the second out.
Kloss came to the plate. Haegar got ahead in the count. The Gator crowd came alive sensing victory when the catcher got her second strike on her. The catcher worked the count full though
“When Kellsi Kloss was up at the plate, full count and two outs, I was smiling, thinking ‘Wow, what a game,’ ” Torina said.
When Haegar threw ball four to Kloss, it brought Sandra Simmons to the plate with the base loaded.
Simmons took four balls from Haegar also to tie the game 3-3.
Tiger starter Baylee Corbello pitched three innings, giving up two runs (one earned), two hits and striking out two before Hoover relieved her.
Hoover was tremendous in relief. In four innings she struck out six while giving up just two hits.
Bell’s perfect night at the plate upped her average to an astounding .532.
Game 2 of the series is set for noon Saturday.