On a day when both teams were battling the wind, the LSU softball team rode patience in the batter's box and uncommon poise from a freshman pitcher to even its SEC series with Kentucky.
LSU had only five hits but worked three Wildcats pitchers for 11 walks in a 5-0 victory Saturday at Tiger Park.
Just as important was LSU freshman right-hander Shelby Wickersham in adverse conditions. Wickersham pitched her fourth shutout, allowing only four hits and two walks in her seventh complete game.
“It was a great answer for yesterday,” LSU coach Beth Torina said of the win, which put the Tigers back in first place in the Southeastern Conference.
LSU (35-9, 12-5 SEC) had only seven baserunners in Friday’s 3-2 loss but jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning with the help of four walks against Kentucky (26-16, 9-8) and starter Tatum Spangler (4-1). LSU added a run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Amanda Sanchez, the team’s leading hitter who returned to the lineup after missing Friday’s game with back spasms.
LSU got two more in the fourth on RBIs by Shemiah Sanchez and Amanda Doyle, and the Tigers played error-free defense despite the difficulty tracking fly balls. The defense snuffed out Kentucky’s last threat in the sixth with the bases loaded when center fielder Aliyah Andrews snagged a tricky fly ball and threw out Abbey Cheek at home trying to score to end the inning.
“I’ve never played in weather like this, but it didn’t get into my head,” said Wickersham, who lowered her team-leading ERA to 1.76. “It was really interesting to see fly balls I thought were going to Aliyah end up in left field.”
Wickersham overcame a shaky start when she hit Jenny Schaper to start the and walked Cheek one out later. But she got two pop-ups to end the inning and cruised until the sixth inning. She pitched a perfect seventh after Andrews’ double play, on which catcher Michaela Schlattman made a nice tag on Cheek trying to slide around it.
“(Shelby Wickersham’s) had some up and down moments this season as any freshman would,” Torina said. “This was a big day for her, a big step-up performance. We needed it today.”
Andrews also got LSU going offensively in the first inning with a leadoff walk. Shelbi Sunseri doubled to right field to bring her home, and Sunseri scored as Spangler issued consecutive walks to Elyse Thornhill, Doyle and Schlattman.
“We knew what we were looking for and knew their plans for us,” said Sunseri, the only player with two hits. “We went up there confident in what we were going to see.”
Said Torina: “The walks were huge, gave us a lot of baserunners, a lot of options, especially on a crazy day like today when a ball up in the air wasn’t going to do much.”