LSU softball team rides 9-game winning streak into Tuesday matchup with ULM _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --LSU's Bailey Landry (26) hits a three-run homer to meake the score 4-0 in the second inning of LSU's game vs Texas Tech Sunday in LSU's Tiger Park.

A few hours after she cranked her third home run of the weekend, Sahvanna Jaquish considered how the LSU softball team could build on its four-game sweep of the Purple & Gold Challenge.

Her answer was blunt.

“Winning games again is always a good way to start momentum,” the junior catcher/third baseman said Sunday.

The Tigers have done just that — nine times in a row, to be exact. Now it’s up to No. 5 LSU (13-2) to keep the momentum going as it heads into the final stretch before Southeastern Conference play, starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Louisiana-Monroe in Tiger Park.

“We’re seeing a nice opponent on Tuesday in ULM. They do a good job there,” LSU coach Beth Torina said.

The Warhawks (11-4) have showcased their offensive firepower early in the season, notching 10 more runs than the Tigers while tallying only two fewer home runs.

Torina has four solid options to counter the Warhawks’ big bats. Each of LSU’s pitchers tossed a complete game over the weekend as the team allowed only 15 his and two earned runs. Sophomore right-hander Carley Hoover capped the tournament with a brilliant, 15-strikeout performance in the team’s 5-3 win against Texas Tech on Sunday.

But Hoover downplayed her outing and said she isn’t worried about her statistics. In fact, she was even critical of herself moments after picking up her fifth win of the season.

“Me being a perfectionist, I see everything that was bad on the day and not the 15 strikeouts,” Hoover said. “I’m just already thinking about what I’m going to work on in practice tomorrow. I think that’s what most of the team is like.”

There’s certainly one facet of the Tigers’ game Torina is stressing during practice. LSU has struggled defensively, and all but one of its 19 errors have occurred in the infield. The Tigers spotted their opponents a first-inning lead via errors in the first three games of the Purple & Gold Challenge, a troubling trend.

Though LSU is on pace to record only a few more errors than it did last season, its opponents have taken advantage with 15 unearned runs.

“At this point, it has become kind of a mentality issue that we need to work on and fix,” Torina said. “It’s not for a lack of effort or practice or work; it’s just something that is plaguing us right now that we have to figure out.”

The Tigers’ defensive struggles didn’t carry over to the plate, where three players belted a combined seven home runs during the weekend.

Senior catcher Kellsi Kloss hit a pair of three-run homers to spark LSU’s 10-2 win against Illinois State on Friday. Jaquish brought home three runs with a long ball as the Tigers run-ruled the Redbirds in their rematch Saturday, but her biggest hit of the weekend came during Game 2 of the day’s doubleheader.

Down to her team’s final out, Jaquish blasted a two-run homer to tie the score at 2 before Bailey Landry roped a game-winning homer in the next inning. Both players homered again Sunday.

But, by Torina’s estimation, the Tigers are still “a long way” from where they need to be with the start of SEC play less than two weeks away.

“We played well early, then had a little lull in the middle,” Torina said.

“It’s nice that we’re going to continue to build here. Hopefully we can continue to get better and play our best softball until the end of the season.”