Instead of taking a customary day off after sweeping South Carolina last weekend, LSU softball coach Beth Torina held practice Monday in preparation for the Southland Conference’s top team.
Her strategy worked.
The No. 12 Tigers jumped on McNeese State pitcher Emily Vincent early, and sophomore right-hander Carley Hoover tossed a two-hitter in a 5-2 win Tuesday night in Tiger Park.
The victory gave LSU (37-13) an unblemished 10-0 record in midweek games this season.
“It’s a quality win for our team,” Torina said. “We took the extra time to prepare for them. We changed our off day to make sure we were ready for them and that we had a good solid day of work getting ready for their pitching staff.”
The Tigers wasted no time putting that preparation to work, collecting hits in each of their first five at-bats. Cleanup hitter Sahvanna Jaquish drove in two runs with a bases-loaded double that skirted just inside the left-field line before senior catcher Kellsi Kloss’ single brought her home.
LSU produced three more hits in the second inning, including a single from senior third baseman Bianka Bell that made her the program’s leader in career total bases (468).
“It’s not really (that special). Records are meant to be broken,” Bell said. “It is what it is. I really want a national title. All the individual accolades are cool, but I want the team aspect more.”
Jaquish again came through with runners on, poking a single through the left side to score sophomore Emily Griggs from third base. The Tigers notched nine hits in their first 13 plate appearances before Vincent quieted their bats the rest of the way.
The senior right-hander sent LSU down in order in the third inning and induced a 4-6-3 double play to leave runners on the corners in the fourth.
The Cowgirls (33-11) scored their first run in the top of the fifth inning, during which Taylor Goree’s no-out single broke up Hoover’s no-hitter. Hoover later induced a ground ball with two runners in scoring position, but her defense failed to record an out despite catching both runners between bases.
Leadoff hitter Marisa Taunton tapped an RBI fielder’s choice with bases loaded one at-bat later, but Kloss thwarted the threat by gunning down Justyce McClain at third base.
“They were very aggressive and didn’t give up,” Hoover said. “So that pushed us a little bit. To be able to add this win to our multi-game streak is very nice.”
The Tigers tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a pair of McNeese miscues. Freshman Akiyah Thymes came in to pinch-run after Kloss’ leadoff walk, swiping second base and then third after an errant throw. She trotted home moments later when catcher Erika Piancastelli’s throw back to the circle sailed wide of Vincent.
A dropped foul ball, an error and a wild pitch helped McNeese add another run on one hit in the final inning.
Hoover walked four and struck out four in her first midweek start of the season. Piancastelli, who ranks first nationally in slugging percentage and is tied for second in home runs, went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout against Hoover.
“I wanted to make sure we were going to give them our best,” Torina said of starting her ace. “Carley was somebody that they hadn’t seen before, and she also hadn’t thrown a lot in midweek games. I didn’t think they’d be very prepared for her. Hopefully we had a little bit of the element of surprise.”