In the week leading up to the Purple and Gold Challenge at Tiger Park and in the midst of the program’s best start in history, LSU softball coach Beth Torina was adamant her team hasn’t quite put it all together yet.
Even in two mercy-rule wins Saturday, Torina’s assertions were on display.
The Tigers shook off a shaky defensive showing in their first game, overcoming five errors and riding the arm of freshman Allie Walljasper to a 12-4, six-inning win against Florida Atlantic, but followed with a five-inning offensive explosion in a 15-1 rout of Northwestern State.
“We kind of have to loosen up and just play,” said outfielder A.J. Andrews, who had seven RBIs in the two wins. “Right now we’re undefeated and we really want to defend that title. I think sometimes people can get a little tight and not really just play ball. I think that’s kind of what happened in the first game.”
Walljasper tossed six innings and allowed no earned runs to earn her seventh victory of the season, despite a bevy of problems behind her defensively.
Shortstop Bianka Bell booted a grounder to open the game and a wild throw by third baseman Sydney Bourg later that inning prolonged Walljasper’s stay in the circle and put the Tigers behind early.
“FAU brings a lot of speed and that puts some extra pressure on our defense. We were trying to be too perfect and trying to see everything going on,” Torina said. “It was successful, and they accomplished exactly what they were trying to accomplish. So I think we probably aren’t giving (FAU) enough credit.”
Down 1-0 after the error-filled first inning ended with an RBI groundout from Owls shortstop Emily Lochten, LSU flipped the script and became the beneficiary of FAU’s defensive woes and some timely hitting in the second.
With the bases already loaded thanks to two walks and a Walljasper single, the Tigers knotted it up on Constance Quinn’s sharp fielder’s choice up the middle that scored Kellsi Kloss.
Leadoff hitter A.J. Andrews then dropped a bloop single in left field to score Bourg. Owls pitcher Samantha Messer uncorked a wild pitch in the next at-bat to score Quinn and up LSU’s lead to 3-1.
But it was Bailey Landry who delivered the big blow, clearing the bases with a double down the left-field line to put the Tigers comfortably ahead 5-1.
Andrews added another single between left and center that plated two more in the fifth, and Kloss cranked her third home run of the season — a two-run shot to dead center — in the sixth, followed by Quinn’s RBI double.
In the shellacking of Northwestern State, defense was never an issue. The offense made sure of it.
The Tigers bats were all over Northwestern State starter Micaela Bouvier early, attacking for three runs in the first courtesy of back-to-back RBI singles by Bianka Bell and Sahvanna Jaquish. Bell would come around to score on a Sandra Simmons sacrifice bunt to make the score 3-0.
Bell added another RBI single in the second, and Kloss slammed a two-run double down the left-field line to start a carousel of LSU hitters in a nine-run inning that put the Tigers up 12-0 after just two innings.
“I thought the offense was phenomenal all day today,” Torina said. “Both games they swung the bats and swung the bats really well.”
Andrews had the big hit of the monster inning, slamming a triple to center field with the bases loaded, sending all three Tigers home. Jaquish slammed her ninth home run of the season in the fourth, a three-run bomb to the berm in left field, to set the final score.