BATON ROUGE, La. – After seeing its four-run lead evaporate over the course of two innings the LSU Tiger softball team fought back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh on a Constance Quinn single, but the team would be unable to complete the rally as the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators benefited from 11 walks and five hit batters from LSU pitching as the Tigers fell, 7-6, in eight innings in the series opener at Tiger Park Friday night.
With a 5-2 lead heading into the top of the seventh, LSU (17-9, 1-3 SEC) watched as UF (27-1, 3-1) got a grand slam home run to go up 6-5 for the second lead change of the contest, only to stand by as the Tigers fought back on Quinn’s clutch single to earn the second tie score between the two teams in the bottom half of the inning. However, Florida would not need another hit as the last run of the game scored via walk to plate the winning score for the Gators in the eighth.
“I thought our team fought hard,” head coach Beth Torina said. “They fought really hard at the end. It’s unfortunate. Our offense deserved to win tonight.”
The tough luck for the team didn’t stop the group from having a solid day offensively as the Tigers pounded out nine hits over the course of the game, led by Sahvanna Jaquish and her 2-for-4 night with two home runs, three RBI and two runs scored. For the second time in the last three games Jaquish went yard twice in a contest, as LSU hit three as a group for the fourth time this season.
“I really wanted to win,” Jaquish said. “It didn’t matter if it was me who hit it or if it was one of my teammates. We just wanted to win the game.”
Bailey Landry was the only other Tiger batter to accumulate multiple hits against Florida, going 2-for-4. Kellsi Kloss had the other home run for the team as she went back-to-back with Jaquish in the fifth, the fourth time this year two LSU teammates have hit bombs in consecutive at-bats, with Allison Falcon going 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
Taking the loss for the first time this season was Kelsee Selman, who made it just a third of an inning after coming on in the eighth before starter Baylee Corbello came back in after allowing a run on no hits with two walks and two hit batters.
After giving up a hit in the very first inning, Corbello was mowing through Florida batters and did not give up another until the seventh. Although an unearned run scored in the sixth, she made it one more inning and had two outs until Taylore Fuller hit the shot that gave the visitors the lead back and one more hit before coming out of the game in relief. She was on the hook for the loss until LSU tied it in the seventh, as Ashley Czechner came in and got the final out of the seventh on just four pitches.
Corbello finished the night allowing six runs, five earned, with 11 strikeouts and nine walks on 193 pitches in 7.1 innings of work.
LSU chased Florida starter Delanie Gourley after just two innings as they scored three runs off six hits in her shortest outing of the season. The Tigers saw all three pitchers that they will see on the weekend in one night, as Hannah Rogers eventually earned the win, even as she gave up the game-tying run in the process. Rogers moved to 11-1 on the season with two walks and two strikeouts in two innings, while Lauren Haeger pitched the middle four allowing two runs on two hits with two strikeouts.
The Gators began the game with a hit batter and walk after a stolen base to put two on with no outs and the Gators threatening. After a swinging strikeout, a double to right center by Stephanie Tofft scored the runner at second, but the next Florida runner was thrown out trying to reach the plate for the second out of the inning. A deep fly to Blades in left ended the frame with Florida up 1-0.
Falcon didn’t wait long to make her at-bat count, as she smoked a double to left field on the very first pitch of the second inning to lead off the Tiger charge. After a deep fly to center by Corbello, Jacee Blades put down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the LSU second baseman to third to put the tying run 90 feet from home plate. Andrews came through on the first pitch of her turn at the plate and singled up the middle to tie the game at one. Andrews would steal second, but remained there as a strikeout ended the inning.
In LSU’s half of the third, Bell singled down the right field line in the second pitch of her at-bat and took first. The first pitch Gourley threw to Jaquish got crushed and sent to the Berm in left center to put LSU up 3-1 over the Gators for the team’s first lead of the night. A walk to Kloss put one back on, with a bunt single by Landry to put two on prompting the UF pitching change. Although the next three went down in order, the damage had already been done with LSU taking the lead.
The home side continued to get power form the bats with two swings in the bottom half of the fifth, as Jaquish went deep for the second time in the game to lead off the inning, taking a 2-2 pitch to the almost identical spot of her first home run of the game to left center to make it 4-1 LSU, as Kloss decided to get in on the action and clubbed it to left as well to put the Tigers up four.
Corbello ran into another big jam in the fifth, as the Gators loaded the bases with one out after an error, hit batter and walk put the Tigers in a tough spot. The pitcher got the fifth batter of the frame to pop up to Falcon at second base for the second out, and nearly got through the inning unscathed, but with a 3-2 count plunked Florida’s Chelsea Herndon to bring in the second Gator run of the game to make it 5-2 LSU. With the pressure still on, a grounder to Wray at third ended the inning without any further damage.
In the top of the seventh, Corbello looked finish the job and began the inning with a walk and single to put two on with no outs. She finally worked through and struck out the next UF batter looking, but an infield single loaded the bases. She got the next to go down swinging, but Fuller took her 1-2 count and sent a screamer down the left field line for the grand slam home run to put Florida back up 6-5. A double in the next at bat was the last for Corbello for the time being, as Czechner came in and got the final batter to pop up to Bell to end the inning.
Falling behind for the second time, Bell led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk as Alex Boulet came in to pinch run for the LSU shortstop. Jaquish fouled out to third base for the first out, while Kloss walked to put two on. Landry singled to load the bases, while Falcon popped up to put the Tigers on the brink with two outs. Quinn came on to pinch hit and hit a tough grounder to deep short and the force out at third was not in time as Boulet scored to tie the game back at 6-6 to send the game to extras.
Selman came on in the eighth inning and had a rough go early as she walked the first batter she faced, and following a groundout hit the next two and walked in a run to make it 7-6 Florida. Selman struck out the next batter swinging and got the final one to fly out to left.
“We have seen all of Florida’s pitchers at this point,” Torina said. “It sets us up for a good spot the rest of the series.”
Game two of the series is set for a 7 p.m. first pitch. The game will be carried live on Cox Sports Television with Lyn Rollins and Yvette Girouard and sideline reporter Brittany Mack.
LSU vs. Florida
March 14, 2014
POST GAME QUOTES
HEAD COACH BETH TORINA
On tonight’s loss to No. 1 Florida…
“I thought our team fought hard. I thought our offense showed a lot of promise throughout the game. They did a great job. Sahvanna Jaquish had a great day. A lot of them had a great day. They fought really hard at the end. We have seen all of Florida’s pitchers at this point. It sets us up for a good spot the rest of the series. It’s unfortunate. Our offense deserved to win tonight.”
On LSU’s freshmen’s contribution to this team…
“Constance is probably the most athletic kid on the team. I wish we could find an extra spot for her to be out there everyday. She deserves it. She is a great player. It is tough for her to be in the spot she is in. Sahvanna is swinging the bat well. Bailey Landry had a great night. Corbello is still keeping us in ball games. I like what I am seeing from all of them. I think they will do big things here in the future. They are just very young. They are doing some things and making some mistakes that young kids do.”
P BAYLEE CORBELLO
On Taylore Fuller’s grand slam in the seventh inning…
“I was in my head. That was my fault leaving the change up high when I knew she was waiting on it. You have to throw that one off the plate and make them chase. I left it over the plate.”
On re-entering the game in the eighth inning…
“I was cheering on the other pitchers who came in the game. I feel like they have the talent to do it as well. At the same time, I wanted to finish the game. I pitched the whole thing, so I might as well. I was more confident coming back in. I told myself just do it.”
On LSU’s loss to No. 1 Florida…
“I think our offense can compete against anyone. Florida is a really good team. I feel like our ladies did well today.”
On leading Florida majority of the game…
“I felt like we had them. You never know who will win. It is always one swing, one pitch away. It is faith. You can never lose faith. Softball is a game where you can come back instantly. I believed we would win until it was the last out. None of us thought we would lose.”
On her two homeruns tonight against No. 1 Florida…
“I was excited. It didn’t matter what my homeruns did. The last inning was all I cared about. I really wanted to win. It didn’t matter if it was me who hit it or if it was one of my teammates. We just wanted to win the game”