When Allie Walljasper stepped in to pinch-hit, her team down to its last out and trailing No. 10 Georgia by three runs, LSU coach Beth Torina overheard hitting coach Howard Dobson offer a word of advice.
Get the barrel out and hit it as far as you can, Dobson said.
The sophomore pitcher blasted a two-run homer that sparked the No. 8 Tigers’ four-run, game-clinching seventh inning last Friday night. Walljasper, a regular pinch-hitter during her two seasons at LSU, said she wasn’t surprised when Torina called on her in such a big spot.
“I was trying to do whatever I could to keep the momentum going. ... I wanted to pass the bat and have my other teammates come up after me,” she said. “Just keep going until we have the last out.”
But now Walljasper is quickly transitioning from pinch hitter to an integral part of LSU’s lineup.
Torina put Walljasper in the batting order in each of her past two starts in the circle, most recently during the Tigers’ 5-0 win against Southern Miss on Wednesday night. Walljasper has an at-bat in four of the past five games and has made the most of her opportunities with a hit in each contest.
Her hot streak began with a pinch-hit single in the sixth inning of LSU’s 6-2 loss to Florida on March 26. Then came her towering, momentum-shifting home run against the Bulldogs — another reason Walljasper “deserves” more at-bats, Torina said.
“She’s continuing to swing well, and all year long we’ve gone with people who are swinging the bat well,” the coach said. “So as long as she keeps swinging that way, I think she’ll continue to get opportunities.”
Walljasper hasn’t been half bad in the circle, either.
The right-hander is 2-1 in her past three starts, allowing only four earned runs in 23 innings. Three of those runs came via a homer in the ninth inning of the Tigers’ 3-0 loss to the Gators on March 25.
She has been effective in both phases despite pesky discomfort in her throwing arm from an injury that hindered her in late February and early March.
“It’s (feeling) good,” Walljasper said of her arm. “I’ve been getting lots of treatment with my trainer. I’ve been on a good treatment plan, and we’ve been going with how it feels.”
Her ERA currently sits at 1.56, 14th-best in the stacked Southeastern Conference. But it’s that .333 batting average that has her coaches smiling.
“As long as Allie can stay hot,” Dobson said Wednesday night, “we’ll ride that horse until she cools off.”
Torina reaches 200
The Tigers’ 5-1 win against Georgia last Saturday gave them more than a much-needed series victory. It marked Torina’s 200th win as LSU’s coach.
She didn’t even know.
“I had no idea that was happening,” Torina said Tuesday. “I really don’t keep track of that stuff.”
Torina said she appreciated the recognition for the milestone, but she deflected the credit to the players she has coached during her five seasons at LSU.
“The only thing cool about that is it makes you think about all the people that were involved in helping me get to that spot, the opportunities that I’ve had here and all the players that participated in those 200 games,” she said. “I think it’s pretty cool to reflect on that. Otherwise, I don’t play the games; the girls do.”