BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After splitting the first two games of the series and nullifying both teams undefeated marks, all that was left was the rubber match on Sunday between the No. 3 LSU Tigers and the No. 1 Florida Gators, and after spotting the home side three runs LSU scored 10 after that point to pull out ahead for good and claim the series in a 10-3 victory Sunday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
LSU (27-1, 5-1 Southeastern) finished the series outhitting the top-ranked Gators (28-2, 1-2) in all three games on the weekend after earning double-digit runs on 12 hits, including using a pair of errors against Florida on Sunday, claiming a series against Florida for the first time since 2006 and the first time in Gainesville since 2005.
"I think we had a lot of things going for us, and when we came into the series we had a few question marks. But I think after this weekend some of those things have been solidified and this team is going to be more confident going forward," head coach Beth Torina said.
Although early it looked like a good start might go spoiled, the Tigers regrouped and allowed LSU starter Kelsee Selman (6-0) to pitch confidently in the circle as she limited Florida to three runs on four hits, while striking out a season-high 11 with only two walks in the complete game effort.
"I think I just had quality pitches, and I went out there with the mindset that every pitch meant something," Selman said. "I think I was more confident because I knew that they were going to score the runs for me, and outside of one pitch, I still felt like the team had my back and would come through."
Selman was right as all nine LSU players that had an at-bat in the contest earned a hit, with none being bigger than Bianka Bell's three-run home run in the top of the sixth inning that gave LSU the lead for good on a 3-for-5 afternoon with a career-high five RBIs and two runs scored.
"The biggest thing for us now is that we know what we're capable of and how we need to perform against any team that is in front of us," Bell said. "We still have a lot of games to play, and we need to play like this no matter what other team is front of us for the rest of the season."
Bailey Landry extended her hitting streak to 20-games as she went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and three runs scored, as Kellsi Kloss drove in two RBIs against Florida.
It was a pitcher's duel early, and Florida Aleshia Ocasio (9-2) suffered her second loss of the weekend as the Tigers chipped away for the entire length of the game before finally breaking through as she ended the day pitching 5.1 innings allowing five runs, three earned on eight hits with five strikeouts and two walks. However, Lauren Haeger came on in relief and gave up the bomb to Bell, giving up two more runs after that with no strikeouts and two walks in 1.2 innings of work.
Of the four Florida hits, Kirsti Merritt had what seemed to be early as the shot of the day, hitting a three-run home run for Florida in the bottom of the third to give the Gators the early lead, but after that it was a struggle throughout for the rest of the lineup that just the day before had scored 10 runs themselves.
After a pair of quick outs in the opening frame of the contest, Bell hit a dribbler to the circle that was misplayed for the error to take first. Sahvanna Jaquish battled through and ripped a double to the gap in right center putting runners in scoring position for LSU, but that would be as much excitement for the team that inning as a strikeout ended the frame.
Emily Griggs led off the top of the third with a single slapped through the right side of the defense to take first. A.J. Andrews sent a deep fly to center, allowing the LSU outfielder to move to second on the play. Landry earned a walk to put two on for the Tigers, but a pop up in foul territory and a fly out to left ended another scoring chance for LSU.
Selman's perfect game came to an end in the bottom of the third with UF's first single of the game in the opening at-bat of the half inning. A sac bunt advanced the runner to second, as the pitcher got another strikeout to put two outs on the board. A walk put two runners on for the Gators, and that proved to double the sting as Merritt homered to center to make it 3-0 Florida.
Kellsi Kloss helped the Tigers regroup by lacing a double to right center to kick start the LSU fourth. After a pop up to right, Dylan Supak doubled to right center and advanced to second as Kloss moved to third on the play. Unfortunately, a pop up to second and a strikeout ended the inning with two more for LSU in scoring position.
Landry extended her streak to open the top of the fifth, using a bunt single to reach first, as Bell drilled a shot to left to put two on for the Tigers. Jaquish bounced a shot to third as an error loaded the bases for LSU for the first time on the day. A pop up in foul territory was the second out for the Tigers in the frame, but in a battle between the pitcher and hitter, Sandra Simmons ripped a single down the right field line to score two to make it 3-2.
In the sixth, Constance Quinn singled through the left side of the infield to take first, as Griggs bunted her over to second on a sacrifice to get her into scoring position. Andrews earned a hard-fought walk to put two on, with both moving to second and third on a wild pitch. In a full count for Landry, she grounded into the fielder's choice but the throw from short wasn't in time as Quinn slid in under the tag to tie the game at 3-3.
Florida pulled Ocasio in favor of Haegar, and with a chance to strike, Bell fouled off two pitches high and foul. After taking a ball in the dirt, Bell didn't miss the next time, crushing one to the trees in center to clear the bases and give LSU its first lead of the day up 6-3.
With one out in the top of the seventh, Supak drew a walk and was replaced on the bases by Taylor Lockwood. After another fly out to center, Griggs earned a walk to put two runners back on base for LSU. Andrews completed the hitting order for LSU as she singled through the right side to score the freshman to make it 7-3, as Andrews motored to second to put two in scoring position.
Landry dropped in a bloop single down the left field line to bring in Griggs to make it 8-3 to put runners at the corners. Bell came through again blasting a double down the left field line to drive in both to make it a 10-3 LSU advantage.
The Tigers return home to take on the Nicholls State University Colonels in Tiger Park at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be streamed live on SEC Network+