Resilience has been a hallmark of the LSU softball team in rolling up a 36-9 record and an SEC-leading 13-5 mark. Sunday that toughness was illustrated by their “tough girl” Shemiah Sanchez.
The diminutive second baseman from Newnan, Georgia, hit a two-run homer — her second of the game — in the sixth inning to break a tie and send LSU to a 5-2 victory against Kentucky at Tiger Park.
It was the third time in six conference series LSU has won two after dropping the opener. Sunday’s game was up for grabs until Sanchez, who is 5-foot-2, fouled off four two-strike pitches before launching her team-leading 15th homer to left-center field.
Sanchez hit three at Mississippi State last weekend, including the game-winner on Sunday.
“She’s the one who’s been carrying us, our hottest hitter,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “You find yourself hoping she’s going to come up.
“She’s got such a great mentality. She’s such a tough kid. She’s battled so much in her life it’s easy for her to come out and battle in a softball game. She’s gritty. It’s fun seeing her succeed.”
Sanchez’ homer scored Shelbi Sunseri, who led off with a double, and energized the Tigers. Elyse Thornhill followed Sanchez with a solo blast to right field for an insurance run.
“I was thinking, ‘Get a hit, we’ve got a runner at two,’ ” Sanchez said. “ ‘Get something through that will score the run.’ It was a drop ball, and I had to drop the barrel to get under it. Thankfully, the wind was blowing out.”
Sunseri overcame some early difficulties to improve to 9-5 in the circle. She allowed six hits and walked three but struck out six and had a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Sunseri escaped a two-baserunner threat with an inning-ending strikeout in the first and got a double play started by third baseman Amanda Sanchez to limit a Kentucky threat to one run in the second.
Kentucky’s Abbey Cheek hit a solo home run in the third to tie the game at 2, but Sunseri allowed only two baserunners in the final four innings.
Shemiah Sanchez gave her team a 2-0 lead with a home run to right-center field, but LSU struggled at the plate against Humes, who retired seven consecutive batters before Sunseri led off the sixth with her double.
“I was feeling prepared,” Shemiah Sanchez said. “I went back and looked at the plan they had set up for me, the way they were going to attack me. I knew what pitches were coming. We’re in a good spot, but there is always room for improvement to get one step better each day.”
LSU has a three-game series at Arkansas beginning Thursday and a nonconference series at Baylor before closing the season with a series against second-place Alabama at home.
“I like their fight a lot,” Torina said of her team. “They’re talented obviously, but their guts and their fight are going to take them farther in the season than anything they do talent-wise.”