The LSU softball team was in the process of digging itself out of the biggest hole it had seen all season when Sahvanna Jaquish stepped to the plate.

The Tigers had already cut Ball State’s lead to one run late in the fifth inning after climbing out of a season-worst three-run deficit earlier in the night, but they were still struggling to build offensive momentum.

That’s when Jaquish did what she has done better than any other Tiger this season: Take a trip around the bases.

The sophomore hit her team-leading eighth home run of the season exactly when LSU needed it most, crushing a three-run shot into the Berm to give the Tigers all the momentum they needed to snag a 7-3 win in the Purple and Gold Challenge. The win extended the Tigers’ program-best start to a perfect 18-0.

“Even with two outs, I knew my team could get a run in and chip away at the deficit,” Jaquish said. “I’m happy she gave me a pitch I liked. I didn’t even know it was going to go over the fence, so that was nice.”

Ball State jumped to an early lead as pitcher Kelsee Selman struggled to maintain composure in the circle, allowing three earned runs and six hits in just 2.1 innings.

The Tigers looked shocked in the third inning as they watched the Cardinals’ Emily Dabkowski sail a two-run shot into the Berm when, only two batters before, Selman gave up a solo shot to Selena Reyna.

LSU began to climb out of the deficit in the fourth inning when shortstop Bianka Bell barely beat out the tag at the plate on a fielder’s choice from first baseman Sandra Simmons.

Bell pushed center fielder A.J. Andrews across the plate in the fifth inning on a blooper to right field to set up Jaquish’s game-winning performance.

Carley Hoover had a strong showing in relief for Selman, finishing with eight strikeouts in 4.2 scoreless innings.

“We’re just relentless,” Jaquish said. “Good teams always find a way to score, even in the last inning or the last out. We always have a chance to score.”

LSU easily cruised to a 9-0 win over Stephen F. Austin in five innings to open play Friday thanks to a trio of home runs, including Bell’s 33rd career shot, tying her with Rachel Mitchell for the program’s all-time lead.

Bell took Ladyjacks pitcher Callee Guffey for a solo home run to dead center in the bottom of the third — her seventh trip around the bases this season.

It didn’t take long for the Tigers to extend their lead over SFA as Kellsi Kloss hit a ball feet from where Bell’s landed beyond the wall for the Tigers’ first back-to-back solo shots of the year.

Kloss had opened up the scoring in the first inning when she was inches away from a home run, instead having to settle for a two-run triple.

The Tigers put the finishing touches on the Ladyjacks with a five-run fourth inning that was highlighted by Jaquish’s preview of what she would show against Ball State later, sending another three-run shot into the Berm to give the Tigers.

“We were able to do a lot of things really well in that game,” LSU coach Beth Torina said.

“We played really good defense. We got a really good performance on the mound that (Baylee Corbello) got better as the game went on.”