LSU freshman pitcher Sydney Smith had never heard the story of Michael Jordan fighting through a stomach illness in the 1997 NBA Finals.
But she not only heard about it Tuesday, she went out and did a pretty fair imitation of it. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a Game 5 victory that set up their fifth NBA title and Smith fought through a stomach virus and came within one out of a no-hitter as the Tigers beat Nicholls State 2-0 at Tiger Park.
“(The team doctor) told her the Jordan story earlier today when she was trying to get ready to go,” coach Beth Torina said.
Torina wasn’t sure Smith, who threw a five-inning perfect game against Tennessee Tech on March 4, would be able to pitch until she saw her warm up in the bullpen about 15 minutes before game time.
“She didn’t start warming up until really late,” Torina said. “She was trying to feel better. She had been sick through the night. Then the last couple of minutes before the game, she decided to try it, and we went with it.”
No. 7 LSU (26-5) hosts No. 1 Florida in a three-game series beginning with a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Friday. Nicholls State is 16-11.
Smith walked the second batter of the game, Brooke Morris, and walked Kasey Frederick with two out in the second. Frederick advanced to third when the usually sure-handed Sandra Simmons dropped a throw to first on Haley Stevenson’s grounder, but Smith stranded the only Colonels runner to reach scoring position when she got Kayla Prater on a grounder.
“I just really felt like I was kind of getting in the groove of things (after the second inning),” Smith said. “I was feeling the umpire and the pitches.”
After Stevenson reached on the error, Smith didn’t allow another baserunner until there were two out in the ninth. That’s when Jessica Taylor barely made contact and the ball trickled maybe 15 feet up the third base line and Taylor reached first before either catcher Kellsi Kloss or third baseman Bianka Bell had a chance to make a play.
“I can’t get mad about it,” Smith said. “I’d rather have it happen on a swinging bunt than a double in the gap.”
Smith (7-1) threw 89 pitches, 58 for strikes, and struck out four.
“When you’re not feeling well you don’t worry so much about pitches,” Torina said. “Your only thought is, ‘Let me just survive this.’ ”
Nicholls starter Hannah Haydel (8-6) had a good performance of her own, allowing just four hits — two by Bailey Landry and two by Amber Serrett — and one earned run.
Landry, batting in the leadoff position for the first time in 26 games, lined a standup triple to left to start the bottom of the first. She came home when Morris misplayed Emily Griggs’ grounder to second for an error.
“As the leadoff hitter you definitely want to see a lot of pitches,” Bailey said. “You want to get on base and start things off.”
The Tigers rallied with two out in the second as Serrett singled, Simmons walked and Landry singled home Serrett for a 2-0 lead.
That was more than enough for Smith, who lowered her earned run average to 0.60.
“Of course we wanted (the no-hitter) for her,” Torina said. “It would have been cool for her to have a perfect game and a no-hitter in her freshman year.”