By: Clyde Verdin
Staring down a five run deficit on Sunday afternoon, the LSU softball team was in the middle of a slugfest against No. 13 Georgia when the Tigers exploded for seven runs, capped by a Kailey McCasland pinch hit two-RBI single with two outs in a seven run sixth inning propelling the squad to a 13-11, and series-clinching, victory over the Bulldogs at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge.
Hours after another thrilling finish between the two teams, LSU (24-18, 6-9 SEC) sent 11 batters to the plate in the deciding inning as the Tigers earned seven runs on five hits to take the contest, finally breaking through to take its first and only lead after pulling within one of UGA (35-8, 9-6) on four separate occasions earlier in the contest.
Both teams scored in all but one frame on each side, with four multiple run innings for Georgia and three for LSU, as the Tigers finished the game outhitting the Bulldogs 13-10. The Tigers also found ways to bring in runners when it counted most, stranding just seven while Georgia left 12 on base over the course of the game.
"Hats off to our offense today. They never stopped fighting," head coach Beth Torina said. ". They never quit. They had heart the whole game, and that's what we needed them to do all year long. Today was the day they showed up, and it was a good day to do it."
12 different Tiger batters recorded at least one at bat against the Bulldogs, and combined with season-best afternoons from Tammy Wray and Kellsi Kloss, the team got its biggest hits from its reserves in McCasland and Dylan Supak, who both connected on key hits to seal the win for the Tigers in the end. McCasland went 1-for-1 with two RBI while Supak was 1-for-1 with an RBI as well.
"I was just looking for an outside pitch," McCasland said. "I just needed to get the ball to the right side so we could score the runner at third and second. It worked out."
One of four players to earn multiple hits and just one of two with three, Kellsi Kloss tied all of her seasons high's on the afternoon in finishing a hit short of the cycle with a single, double and eighth home run of the season to go with her four RBI and three runs scored. Wray tied her career high for hits with a double included in her three base knocks, tying season highs with two RBI and a run scored with a walk.
"I think this game shows us what we are capable of now," Kloss said. "There is no excuse for us not to score that many runs every game now. Georgia is a great team. I have to give them credit. They hit well and pitch well too. We now know what we are capable of. I'm not saying we will score 13 runs every game, but we know we are capable of it."
Constance Quinn was the last LSU player to earn multiple hits, finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Bianka Bell got it done both in the field and at the plate going 1-for-4 with an RBI and run scored, with A.J. Andrews earned one hit and scored once in getting walked three times Sunday. Alayna Falcon had an RBI coming in the sixth, while last night's hero Jacee Blades scored once and was walked twice.
Sandra Simmons scored just one run on the day, but her run was the biggest, as she matched a rare feat becoming the second player in team history to steal home in a game. Coincidentally, the last time LSU had a player steal home was on April 30, 2010 as Kirsten Shortridge did the same against Georgia to break a 3-all tie in an eventual 5-3 win.
With 11 runs scored on 10 hits for Georgia, the LSU pitching staff was able to withstand and persevere and earning the win in the end was Kelsee Selman who walked two and got the final two batters to go down in order in the top of the sixth to improve to 5-2 on the season. Starter Ashley Czechner pitched 2.1 innings and gave up five runs, four earned, on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts, while Baylee Corbello allowed six runs, five earned, on six hits with three walks in three innings.
Unlike yesterday where the UGA pitching staff looked sharp until the final few innings, the Tigers got to Bulldog pitchers and did not stop from the jump as Geri Ann Glasco was tattooed for nine runs on eight hits with four walks and a strikeout in 2.1 innings to fall to 14-3 in the loss. Starter Chelsea Wilkinson threw 3.2 innings and allowed four runs on five hits with five walks and two strikeouts. Combined they walked nine LSU batters and struck out only two.
Georgia's Paige Wilson went 4-for-4 for the Bulldogs with three RBI and two runs scored, while Samantha LaZear went 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Katie Brown hit the fourth home run for Georgia in the series, going 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.
Georgia was the beneficiary of two runs in the first inning after being held hitless, as a pair of walks and fielder's choice on a sacrifice bunt loaded the bases for the Bulldogs. After a strikeout, a chopper to third looked poised to try and put out the lead runner at home plate, but the throw hit the runner and allowed two to score on the error.
Andrews led off with a single to open the LSU first, stealing second before advancing to third on a wild pitch. After a strikeout, Bell grounded out to second to plate the centerfielder cutting the deficit to a single run.
Czechner ran into another big jam in the very next inning, as the second began with a hit batter and consecutive singles to juice the bases for UGA, with a sacrifice fly making the score 3-1 in favor of Georgia. The righty would get out of the inning without further damage getting the next batter to strikeout looking and the final to ground out to Simmons at first.
A walk to Kloss began the Tiger second, as a batter's interference call gave LSU its first out. Allison Falcon reached on a fielder's choice after Kloss was put out at second, but scored on the next at-bat as Wray drove a double to right center again cutting the Georgia lead to one run with the score now 3-2.
Unfortunately, the LSU starter would be chased from the game in the top of the third, as after a single and sacrifice bunt to advance the runner over, Browne homered to left to make it 5-2 Bulldogs, as a walk on the next batter ended Czechner's day in the circle as Corbello came on and gave up two hits but got the next two after that to fly out to left to end the frame.
After a relatively quiet pair of at bats on both sides, the Tigers came back in the bottom of the fourth and got a leadoff single from Kloss and a sacrifice bunt by Simmons advanced the LSU catcher to second for the first out. A deep fly by Falcon allowed Kloss to tag up and move to third for the second out. Coming on to pinch hit, Supak singled through the left side to make it 5-3 Georgia.
Andrews drew a walk to put three on for LSU, as Alayna Falcon came on to pinch hit and got hit to bring in the second run of the inning to make it a one-score game at 5-4. Unfortunately, a grounder to short ended the inning.
The Bulldogs scored for the fifth time in the game in the fifth, getting an RBI single through the right side with two on, and another on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to go up three, 7-4.
Quinn led off the bottom half of that very same inning with a single down 0-2 in the count to take first. Also behind in the count, Kloss reared back and drilled one over the fence in left for the two-run bomb to claw the squad bat to a single run down 7-6, as Wray would earn her second hit of the game in the inning, but no other runs would cross heading to the sixth.
The Bulldogs seemed to finally put enough distance between themselves and the Tigers in the sixth, scoring four runs on two hits with an error to take an 11-6 lead over LSU.
A walk to Andrews put one on for LSU in the bottom of the sixth, but was put out on the next play on a fielder's choice grounder to short with Alayna Falcon taking first base. Bell singled to left field to put two on as Simone Heyward came on to pinch run at second base. Quinn singled to right field scoring Heyward to make it 11-7. Kloss came through again with the double to score Quinn and Bell to make it 11-9 Georgia.
With the rally on, Simmons reached with a walk to put runners at first and second, with Allison Falcon flying out to center with the two tagging up and advancing on the play. With two outs Wray singled to third scoring Kloss to pull the team within one and putting runners at the corners with Alex Boulet coming on to pinch run at first. Everything broke loose on the next at-bat as Blades walked to take first, with Boulet taking off for second base and a throw from the catcher position allowing Simmons to steal home and slide in under the tag from second back in to tie the game at 11.
With Boulet now at third and Blades at second after the play, Andrews drew an intentional walk to load the bases for LSU, with McCasland ripping a shot through the right side for the game-winning hit to give the Tigers the 13-11 lead.
"I have been a part of some pretty cool games where we pull out awesome wins, but this game was something special," Wray said. "The fact that every single person in the lineup, starters and non-starters, just stepped, did their role, and did it so well."