Senior Amanda Doyle and freshman Ali Newland hit grand slams in a 15-run fourth inning as LSU fought off the harsh elements for a 19-3 victory against North Dakota on Wednesday at Tiger Park.
Freshman right-hander Morgan Smith allowed five hits in five innings for the victory in her first career start, battling temperatures just above freezing in a game moved to daytime to avoid expected rain. Smith struck out three and did not walk a batter.
Simply getting the game in was an achievement for LSU (3-1) which had a doubleheader Sunday and a single game Tuesday postponed when temperatures dipped into the teens. The upcoming trip to Tuscaloosa for the Bama Bash was also reshuffled because of positive COVID-19 tests and quarantining of an opponent.
“It has been a week like no other in my coaching career, the weather, losing games; it has truly challenged us,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We have an amazing game management staff that will do anything to make it happen. Everyone felt it was in our best interest to go for the game and it worked out well for us that we did. Our kids are ready to play. They need competition and to be in games. It was important we keep doing that.”
LSU came up with 10 hits but also took advantage of 12 walks, two hit batters and three wild pitches. Doyle helped the Tigers go ahead early with a two-run single in the second inning for a 4-0 lead. Later she drilled a solo home run to left field and then broke the game open with a grand slam to straight-away center field on a 3-1 pitch off Nikki Pica.
“I was proud of the way the team came out today and didn’t let the cold affect us,” said Doyle, who increased her team-leading homer total to five. “I just did what I normally do, swing and try to have a good time out there. (I hit) maybe a curveball. It was nice, I got a good piece of it. I tried to make adjustments from my previous at-bats.”
Newland, a freshman from Bremen, Georgia, capped LSU’s big inning with her bases loaded homer into the center-field stands as a pinch hitter in her first career at-bat.
“She’s set the bar pretty high for herself,” Torina joked. “What an awesome swing. It’s a cool moment for her. She can do so many different things. You’re going to see more of her for sure.”
LSU (3-1) increased its team home run total to 12 in four games.
Cassie Casteneda and Jocelyn Kirk had run-scoring hits in the fourth inning for North Dakota (1-4).
Smith, who also contributed a two-run single, retired the first seven hitters she faced, which might not have been as easy as it seemed. She said she had as many as nine heating pads with her in the circle to try and keep her hands warm and her nerves under control.
“I was nervous coming out for my first collegiate game and now weather,” Smith said. “The first inning my energy was really high, and my brain was all over the place. I was going way too fast. In the dugout the coaches said it’s your first time, you’re doing great. You have your defense behind you. If you give up a hit, they’ll protect it.”
Said Torina: “Every pitcher we sent out there went too fast in the first inning, they were amped up. It’s to be expected for a freshman. For her first time she did a good job.”
LSU’s schedule in Tuscaloosa has Liberty at 11 a.m. and Alabama at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and the same two teams at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, Sunday.