Kentucky pitching shut down the Southeastern Conference's No. 1 hitting team, and the Wildcats scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning of a 3-2 victory over LSU in the series opener at Tiger Park on Friday.
Wildcats starter Grace Baalman and reliever Autumn Humes limited LSU to four hits and the Tigers had to scratch for their two runs, one of which was unearned. LSU (34-9, 11-5 SEC) managed only seven baserunners, one of those a fielder’s choice.
“They turned their lineup over more than we did,” LSU center fielder Aliyah Andrews said. “We have to a better job of finding a way to get people on base and turning the lineup over.”
The loss drops the Tigers into third place in the SEC standings, percentage points behind Auburn and Ole Miss (both 9-4).
LSU played without leading hitter and third baseman Amanda Sanchez, who sat out because of back spasms. Sanchez, batting .471 with 48 RBIs, missed her second game this season.
LSU starter Maribeth Gorsuch (10-1) pitched well in allowing only four hits but struggled with her control. She walked six one intentionally, in her first loss of the season.
“We came out and didn’t have the energy LSU normally brings,” LSU’s Shelbi Sunseri said. “Not complacent, but we didn’t have that fire and energy.”
Baalman allowed three hits in five innings, and Humes came on to retire six of the seven hitters she faced in the final two innings, allowing only a harmless single to Shelbi Sunseri in the sixth. She struck out two batters.
Kentucky (26-15, 9-7) took the lead when Gorsuch walked 9-hole hitter Lauren Johnson to lead off the fifth. After a sacrifice, SEC leading hitter Abbey Cheek was walked intentionally. Kayla Kowalik followed with a bouncing single up the middle to score Johnson.
Gorsuch loaded the bases with another walk, bringing on Sunseri. She got Katie Reed to hit into a force play at the plate and then struck out Mallory Peyton swinging on three pitches to end the threat.
Kentucky got on the scoreboard first in the second inning when Mallory Peyton walked with one out and scored on a double by Kelsee Henson. One out later, Lauren Johnson singled to left field to score Henson.
LSU tied it in the third when Savannah Stewart led off with a single and Andrews bunted for a hit. The runners moved up on a throwing error by Baalman on Andrews’ hit. A groundout to second by Elyse Thornhill scored Stewart, and Andrews scored on a grounder to first by Sunseri, beating the throw to home plate.
LSU might have had more. Shemiah Sanchez hammered a fly ball to deep left field which was caught by Bailey Vick at the wall. Sunseri had rounded second base but failed to retouch the bag on her way back to first and was called out after a brief discussion.
The teams will play at 1 p.m. Saturday, the game moved up from a night contest to avoid expected bad weather. The series finale is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.