There may be nine hitters in the LSU softball lineup, but it was junior shortstop Bianka Bell’s day to steal the spotlight in a 6-0 victory against Arkansas at Tiger Park.
Bell was aware of the fact that she was chasing history.
She had received her fair share of texts heading into the Tigers’ (24-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) series against Arkansas (12-9, 0-2). People were letting her know that she was one home run away from breaking former LSU outfielder Rachel Mitchell’s career record (33).
She decided to end all the talk early on Saturday.
With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Bell cemented herself in the LSU softball record books. On a 3-2 pitch in a scoreless contest, she launched a ball just over the center field wall, giving her 34 for her career and making her the all-time leader.
It took four seasons for Mitchell to hit 33 home runs. Bell broke that mark 24 games into her junior campaign.
“It’s great for now,” Bell said. “I know I have Sahvanna (Jaquish) right behind me who’s probably going to break that. But it’s a great feeling, and it’s nice to bask in it for a little bit.”
LSU coach Beth Torina knew the day would come eventually.
She saw Bell’s potential to surpass the mark when the Tampa, Florida, native first sported her Tigers’ uniform as a rookie.
“It’s crazy to think that when she was a freshman, we all knew she could set that record,” Torina said. “It’s nice to see her actually accomplish it. She’s done some great things for this program … and I think we still have a lot more to see from her in her career.”
Bell wasn’t the only one to break a record on Saturday, though.
LSU sophomore right fielder Bailey Landry chopped an infield single to shortstop in the bottom of the fifth inning, giving her a 16-game hitting streak, the longest in Tigers’ history. The previous mark was set by A.J. Andrews last season, where she picked up a hit in 15 consecutive contests.
“She is one of the toughest outs in the lineup,” Torina said. “She’s a great offensive player. I don’t even know how you would go about getting her out. She does so many things so well.”
But Bell wasn’t finished with her production at the plate.
In the bottom of the third, Bell roped a two-RBI double to center to give LSU an early 3-0 lead.
Sophomore second baseman Constance Quinn added to the Tigers’ advantage in the bottom of the sixth, stroking an RBI single to center field. Freshman left fielder Emily Griggs added an RBI single of her own later in the frame to increase LSU’s lead to six.
That was plenty for LSU freshman starter Allie Walljasper.
Walljasper, who entered Saturday’s contest leading the Tigers in wins, ERA and complete games, continued her stretch of dominance against the Razorbacks. The Manteca, California, native was virtually unhittable, tossing seven shutout innings and allowing only four hits in her SEC debut. She also struck out four and lowered her season ERA to 0.43.
“It was an awesome feeling to be able to go out there and pitch in my first SEC start,” Walljasper said. “And to have all of infield and outfield behind me and the dugout cheering me on made it 10 times easier to go out there.”