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A day after watching as their winning streak came to an end, the No. 3 LSU softball team returned the favor on Saturday as the Tigers scored nine runs in the opening inning to set the tone for what ended up being a wild finish, capped by a grand slam from the bat of Kellsi Kloss to propel the team to a 14-10 win over the No. 1 Florida Gators Saturday afternoon in Gainesville to even the series at one game each.
In the second-most combined runs scored in an LSU (26-1, 4-1 Southeastern) conference game in program history, the Tigers outhit the Gators (28-1, 1-1) for the second consecutive game 15-8, as the hits were a season high and 14 runs tied for the second most scored as the team halted not only UF's record streak to open the season, but a 34-game run that stretched back to the end of last season.
“Credit to Florida for making us work hard for this win, but I think this team showed today and this weekend that it can step on the field and go toe-to-toe with anyone in the country,” head coach Beth Torina said. “We've talked all year about passing the bat to the next person, and giving us a chance to make things happened and we had that opportunity today.”
After striking out twice and walking the other two times, Kloss was staring down two strikes in a 2-2 count with the bases loaded and Florida seizing the momentum from the Tigers after a grand slam in the sixth. One pitch gave her second life on a ball count to even it up, and the next was history sending it out of the park for her fourth of the season and second grand slam of her career on a 1-for-3 afternoon with four RBIs and a run scored.
“No matter what happened yesterday and today, I always had the team behind me 100 percent throughout and it's a credit to them for putting me in a position to succeed,” Kloss said. “We let go of yesterday and we came out saying that today was a new day, and we took all of the opportunities we could to pull out the win.”
It was a huge day offensively all around for both teams, as LSU got a pair of four-hit outings from A.J. Andrews and Bailey Landry, combining to go 8-for-10 at the plate with three RBIs and four runs scored. Landry nearly captured a natural cycle, earning a single, double and triple in consecutive order, extending her hitting streak to 19 games, while Andrews captured her first four-hit game of her career.
Bianka Bell continued her torrid weekend at the plate, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, as from the second game of the Arkansas series up until Saturday, had reached base safely in 10 consecutive plate appearances. Constance Quinn was a force at the bottom of the lineup, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored, with Emily Griggs going 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Allie Walljasper earned the started and battled through a host of jams, pitching three innings allowing five runs on three hits with two walks and three strikeouts, as Carley Hoover (7-1) earned the win after suffering the tough loss yesterday, allowing five runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Florida's loss wasn't due to a lack of effort, as Taylore Fuller's three hits were all home runs as she drove the Gator offense to the tune of eight RBIs. The pitching however took just as much as LSU's did, as starter Delanie Gourley pitched only two innings allowing nine runs, four earned, on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Lauren Haegar pitched the next four, allowing just one run on four hits with five strikeouts, leaving Aleshia Ocasio (9-1) tagged with the loss after giving up the grand slam among four hits with three strikeouts in her only inning of work in the end.
On the very first pitch of the game, Andrews ripped a single through the middle of the infield to take first. Landry put down a textbook bunt for the base hit to advance the runner to second, as Bell continued her torrid pace with a blast on the dirt through the infield to score Andrews from second to give LSU the 1-0 lead.
A walk to Sahvanna Jaquish loaded the bases for the Tigers, with a strikeout providing the first out of the inning. A fielder's choice forced out Landry at home, but Walljasper was hit on the arm to drive in Bell to make it 2-0 LSU.
With a full count and the crowd getting loud, Quinn came through with a single to right to drive in Jaquish and Sandra Simmons to make it 4-0 LSU. A Griggs chopper to second resulted in an error allowing Walljasper to score and move Quinn to third. Andrews came back with a bunt single to score Quinn to make it 6-0 Tigers.
Landry came back up to bat and ripped a double to left center, scoring Griggs to make it 7-0 with Andrews moving to third on the play. With another chance to capitalize, Bell singled to drive in both to make it 9-0 Tigers for the final runs of the inning.
After getting the first two outs of the bottom of that very same inning with relative ease, a walk and a single put two on for the Gators and that proved costly as Fuller hit a shot to right center, clearing the fence to make it 9-3 LSU still leading.
Walljasper worked out of a big jam in the bottom of the third inning as a leadoff triple put a runner in scoring position right off the bat. A walk put runners at the corners without any outs on the board, but all of that changed as a popup to the circle and in foul territory, along with a strikeout ended the inning leaving UF off of the board for the second straight inning.
Unfortunately, Walljasper ran into more trouble in the bottom of the fourth, hitting four consecutive batters to bring a runner in and end her day in the circle, with Hoover coming on for relief. She gave up a hit to bring in another run to make it 9-5, but a huge double play by the defense put two outs on the board. Another hit batter loaded the bases, but Hoover got the final batter to pop up in foul territory to close the door on the Florida rally in a heated inning.
Needing to get anything going in the fifth, Quinn led off with a single through the right side of the infield, with Griggs using a sac bunt to move her to second. It proved huge as Andrews singled to right scoring the LSU second baseman to make it 10-5. Landry followed suit with an infield single to put two back on for the Tigers, but a fielder's choice forced out Landry to put runners at the corners, but that would be it as LSU extended its lead back to five.
Florida came back in the bottom half of the inning and got another home run from Fuller to make it 10-6 for the only run for Florida in the inning.
LSU was playing error-free ball until the sixth, when after a walk a single and error out in center put runners at second and third for Florida in the bottom of the sixth. A walk loaded the bases for the Gators spelling trouble for LSU again, but fortunately Hoover got the next batter to pop up to Bell for the first out. Hoover came back with a strikeout for the second out of the inning, but Fuller connected for her third home run of the game clearing the bases and leveling everything at 10-10.
In the top of the seventh, Griggs singled up the middle to take first as Andrews laid down a bunt to put two on. A strikeout was the first out, but Bell ripped a single through the left side to load the bases for LSU. Another strikeout was the second out for the team, but down to two strikes, Kloss battled back and launched one over the fence in left center for the grand slam to make it 14-10 LSU.
After two outs in the bottom half of that inning, a double to center put one on for Florida, but the Gators went down on the next play on a dribbler to the circle to end the game, securing the win for the Tigers.
First pitch for the series finale is set for 11 a.m. CT at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on Sunday. The game will be televised live on the SEC Network.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @BethTorina on Twitter and @lsusb on Instagram.