In a contest where every at-bat was its own skirmish, LSU fired the final shot in a 6-5 victory against Mississippi State on Friday night at Tiger Park.
The LSU (33-20, 12-10 Southeastern Conference) offense kept rolling following its 11-run performance on Wednesday night at Southeastern, and it all began with the veteran leadoff hitter providing an early spark.
In the bottom of the first inning, junior center fielder A.J. Andrews roped a single to center, and she stole second base only a few pitches later.
With one out and a runner on second, freshman designated player Sahvanna Jaquish saw a screwball and launched a two-run home run into the palm trees in left field. It was Jaquish’s 13th home run of the season — one more than teammate Bianka Bell hit during her freshman campaign last season.
Jaquish holds the record for the most home runs by an LSU freshman, and she remains one away from tying the all-time single season mark (14), which was set by former Tiger Leslie Klein in 2004.
“There’s a lot of weight off my shoulders because I don’t have to press all the time,” Bell said. “(Jaquish is) stepping up big time and getting the big key hits and loosening things up for me. It’s really helping me a lot, and it’s good hitting behind her in the lineup.”
Senior third baseman Tammy Wray kept the Tigers rolling with two outs in the bottom of the second inning after stroking a double to deep center field. Freshman right fielder Bailey Landry followed up with an RBI single to center field, extending LSU’s lead to 3-0.
LSU added another in the bottom of the third after Bell scored on a wild pitch.
After a clean top of the first, Mississippi State (37-17, 9-13) threatened to cut the Tigers’ lead in half by loading the bases with one out, but LSU senior starter Ashley Czechner remained unfazed.
The senior struck out the next two batters, both on four pitches.
Then things began to unravel for the Pawley’s Island, S.C., native.
Mississippi State woke up in the top of the fourth after junior right fielder Julia Echols led off the frame with a solo home run to left field. Senior first baseman Logan Foulks followed with a blast of her own over the wall in center field, cutting the LSU lead in half.
Senior left fielder Jessica Offutt kept the fourth-inning rally alive with a soft RBI line drive to center field, then freshman third baseman Caroline Seitz roped an RBI base hit to tie the game at 4.
The inning finally came to a close after Bulldogs’ senior catcher Sam Lenahan stroked an RBI single to right field to make it 5-4, but Landry gunned down Shape trying to score.
“I just have to think about what adjustments I need to make,” Czechner said. “They made a really good adjustment tonight and started looking at different parts of the zone. I didn’t make adjustments quick enough until the next inning.”
LSU’s offense promptly responded.
One inning later, Bell launched her 10th home run of the season over the wall in right-center, a two-run shot that gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
“I know I’ve been hitting the ball hard,” Bell said. “I was definitely just trying to see the ball a little bit deeper and hit the ball behind the runner so I could just try to move her in and score the run.”
Czechner settled down and finished off the Bulldogs, tossing three scoreless frames to close the contest.
“She did a nice job, and I thought she actually had good stuff all night,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We just needed to make an adjustment with some pitch-calling issues.”