LSU didn’t change its formula when it kicked off Southeastern Conference softball play against Arkansas on Friday night at Tiger Park.
The Tigers mercy-ruled four straight opponents heading into their conference opener. It only took five innings to make it five consecutive contests after the LSU offense exploded to defeat the Razorbacks 10-0 and bump the Tigers’ record to 23-0.
After not scoring for the first two innings, the heart of the LSU order woke up loudly in the bottom of the third.
Freshman left fielder Emily Griggs led off the frame with a walk, bringing up the top of the lineup and giving the Tigers the chance to strike first on the scoreboard.
“When (Griggs) came up to lead off the inning, I knew we were in good shape here,” said LSU coach Beth Torina.
What came next was exactly what Torina was looking for.
Sophomore right fielder Bailey Landry laced an RBI triple down the left field line, giving LSU the early 1-0 lead. Junior shortstop Bianka Bell followed with a triple of her own, shooting a ball to right-center field that was inches away from being her eighth home run of the season.
And then sophomore third baseman Sahvanna Jaquish drove an early dagger into Arkansas’ hopes of a series-opening victory.
With a 3-0 count and a runner on third, Jaquish got the green light from Torina, launching her 10th home run of the season over the left field wall to give the Tigers the four-run lead.
One inning later, it was Griggs who drove in the runs.
With two runners in scoring position and no outs, the Wichita, Kansas, native laced a two-run double to left-center field to increase the Tigers’ lead to 6-0.
“I just went out there with a mindset of, ‘I need to do what my team needs me to do,’” Griggs said. “I wanted to keep the mentality of passing the bat onto A.J. (Andrews), Bailey (Landry), Bianka (Bell) and so on down the lineup.”
Landry added a two-run single two batters later to put LSU in position to mercy rule the Razorbacks (12-8). Just for added insurance, juniors Kellsi Kloss and Sandra Simmons both added sacrifice flies to give LSU a 10-0 lead.
That was more than enough for LSU redshirt freshman starter Carley Hoover.
Arkansas gave the Stanford-transfer a bit of trouble in the top of the first, putting two runners on base after a leadoff walk and a two-out single. But that would be the end of the Razorbacks’ offensive output.
Hoover was virtually unhittable for the proceeding four frames, allowing only one more hit before finishing her time in the circle. The Clemson, South Carolina, native tossed five scoreless inning, striking out nine and picking up her sixth victory of the season. She also lowered her season ERA to 1.15.
“I felt really locked in with my legs tonight,” Hoover said. “That typically helps me throw a little harder. That was a good feeling.”
In every facet, LSU’s start to SEC play was as perfect as the squad could have hoped for. It was the second-most runs ever scored by LSU in an SEC home opener.
That being said, Jaquish said her squad is already focusing on Saturday afternoon’s contest as the Tigers go for the series victory.
“I feel like every time we win a game, we forget about it the next day,” Jaquish said. “It’s just, ‘Here’s a new team. Here’s our next competitor.’ ”