A pair of Louisiana Tech runners stood at second and third base in the top of third inning of LSU’s 5-0 victory against Louisiana Tech on Wednesday night at Tiger Park.
The No. 7 Tigers led 4-0 at that point, but pitcher Carley Hoover had walked both of those runners with nobody out. The sterling command she showed through the first two innings seemed to be fading.
She retired the first six hitters she faced, including three strikeouts. She had thrown first-pitch strikes in four of those six at-bats. Yet the Lady Techsters (5-1) were threatening to cut LSU’s lead in half after Hoover’s second wild pitch of the inning, putting each runner in scoring position.
During the third at-bat of the inning, facing pinch hitter Jessica Ball, Hoover fired a pitch that caromed off catcher Sahvanna Jaquish’s glove and rolled to the backstop. But Jaquish calmly retrieved the ball and tossed it to Hoover to tag out Katie Smith at the plate.
“We just kind of wanted to make it interesting,” Jaquish joked.
All Hoover did from there was retire 14 of the next 16 hitters — with eight strikeouts and two walks — to complete the 38th no-hitter in program history.
Not satisfied with her two outings in the Tiger Classic last weekend, when she struck out 15 hitters but had six walks and gave up five runs, Hoover described her performance as a “get-mentally-right game.”
She recently watched old video of herself oozing confidence and swagger while she "strutted" around the circle.
“I think lately, instead of just competing, I’ve been trying to go out there and be perfect," Hoover said. "Ultimately, I’m the type of player that, if I have 20 percent, we’re still going to win. I’m still going to try to find a way to win. Sahvanna was really patient with me back there. Coach (Beth Torina) knew this has been kind of on my mind. So they did a great job of helping me tonight and supporting me.”
It was Hoover’s second career no-hitter, the first coming in 16-0 run-rule victory against Tennessee Tech last season.
But a seven-inning no-hitter hadn’t been accomplished by an LSU pitcher since 2013, when Rachele Fico silenced the Ohio State offense in a 7-0 victory in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. An LSU pitcher had held a team hitless through seven frames 13 previous times.
And Hoover became the 14th, striking out 11 hitters and walking four on 115 total pitches. She threw first-pitch strikes against 17 of 24 batters she faced, and nine of her 11 punch outs came via the swinging variety.
Though she felt the plate umpire didn’t give her much leniency on her dropball, Hoover said Jaquish’s framing behind the plate aided called strikes on her riseball. On top of that, Torina favored calling changeups, a pitch that Hoover felt was working the entire night.
Hoover needed the bare minimum offensively to down the Lady Techsters, but she received more than enough in the second inning. The Tigers plated four runs off four hits, including RBIs from Emily Griggs and Jaquish.
Jaquish helped two more runs score on a ground ball by Sydney Springfield, avoiding a tag by Louisiana Tech second baseman Karlee Jensen and forcing a throw to first. Jensen's throw was high, and Griggs and Bailey Landry became the third and fourth runs of the inning.
“We keep track of our quality at-bats, not so much out batting averages, and we always try to keep it up above 50 percent,” Jaquish said. “Today, we were 55 percent, so we’re on the right track.”
Jaquish added another RBI single in the fourth, but this night was about her battery mate. Hoover, a preseason All-SEC pick, struck out the final two hitters of third, struck out the final batter of the fourth, struck out the side in the fifth and struck out the final two hitters of the sixth and seventh innings.
“She definitely attacked the zone and was able to use a lot of different pitches, had a lot of command.” Torina said. “I think the good thing is she wasn’t really happy with how she threw over the weekend. (She) was able to go back really analyze some things, look at film and really make some adjustments, and we saw some great results tonight.”