BATON ROUGE, La. – With a tie score for the second time on the day and the game going down to the wire, the No. 13 LSU softball team got a gift in the form of a ninth-inning walk-off solo home run from the bat of Allie Walljasper to send the Tigers to a 5-4 victory over the No. 11 Washington Huskies Sunday afternoon in the regular season finale at Tiger Park.
Staring down a three-run deficit with just an inning remaining between them and a series loss, the Tigers (42-14) scored three runs in the sixth, only to watch the visiting Huskies (33-13) hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh to put LSU on the brink again. Refusing to quit, LSU scored another heart-stopping run in the seventh to send the game to extras, shaking off the sting of nearly having the possible game winner in the eighth before Walljasper’s bomb in the ninth claimed the series for LSU.
“It felt like we were on the way to the World Series after winning that game, it was just so intense,” head coach Beth Torina said. “It just felt like it had that kind of postseason atmosphere and we’ve practiced for that, we’re ready for that now.”
Before getting to Walljasper’s home run, the Tigers got fireworks from the bat of Bailey Landry, who hit a three-run home run, her third of the season, to tie the game initially in the sixth. The junior finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored in the win.
“When it came off the bat, I knew that it felt like a solid hit,” Landry said. “It stayed low and then rose up into the stands.”
Landry was a part of the LSU batting order that combined for eight of LSU’s 14 hits on the afternoon, with Constance Quinn and Amber Serrett having three each as Quinn was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and Serrett going 3-for-4 with a run scored. The trio was three of five LSU players to earn multiple hits on the afternoon, with Bianka Bell and Sandra Simmons each having two.
Although her streak of keeping teams off the board came to an end Sunday, freshman pitcher Sydney Smith (12-2) can lay claim to holding an offensive power such as Washington (33-13) to just one run in 13.2 innings of work on the weekend, as she earned her second win of the series by giving up one run, scattering six hits with two strikeouts and four walks.
“Knowing that I haven’t pitched against a ranked team, but that all the teams that I did pitch against were great, gave me and my defense a chance to get a win today,” Smith said.
Madi Schreyer (10-4), who stifled the LSU bats for much of the second game on Saturday, suffered the loss on Sunday in a heartbreaker, exiting the game in the seventh with the lead, before coming back in after the Husky lead was lost and pitching in all 7.2 innings allowing four runs on 12 hits with a strikeout and two walks, ending with the home run to Walljasper. Casey Stangel pitched an inning, the seventh, as the game-tying run came home on an error for the unearned run before exiting.
“When it came off the bat, I knew it was gone. I have never hit a walk off homerun at any level, so it was exciting,” Walljasper said.
With an out in the top of the third, a bunt single put a Washington runner on base and consecutive RBI doubles thereafter ended Carley Hoover’s day as Smith came on in relief. Smith would get the next batter out, but an error in the infield allowed another run to cross the plate to make it 3-0 before getting the final out of the inning.
LSU threatened in the bottom of that same inning, as Serrett singled to left, followed by a single by Landry to put two on for the Tigers. A fielder’s choice put runners at the corners for the second out of the inning, with a grounder to the circle ending the frame.
In the bottom of the fourth, a walk to Sahvanna Jaquish with one out put one LSU runner on, as after a fly out for the second of the inning, Walljasper was hit by a pitch to put two on. Randi Provost came on to pinch run, as a single by Quinn loaded the bases. However, a fly out to left ended another LSU threat.
A single for Washington opened the top of the fifth, but a round-the-bases double play put two outs on the board. A walk put another Husky runner on base, as a double off the wall in left was sure to bring in another run, but Simmons roped a throw to Serrett, who fired home to Kellsi Kloss for the tag to end the inning to keep it a three score game.
With two outs in bottom of the fifth, Emily Griggs singled to third to reach base, as a single by Bell to left and a walk to Jaquish loaded the bases, but again LSU came up empty as a fielder’s choice grounder to short ended the inning.
With an out in the bottom of the sixth, Quinn singled to center to reach, moving to second on a passed ball. A single by Serrett put runners at the corners, but the trot in would be sweet as Landry belted a shot to right center, clearing the fence for the three-run homer to tie the game at 3-3.
In the very first at-bat of the seventh, a solo home run that danced down the left field line gave Washington the lead back at 4-3.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Quinn ripped a single to right center and caught the defense sleeping as she motored to second. It proved costly for the visitors as Serrett singled to left, with an error in the outfield allowing Quinn to score to tie the game at 4-4.
In the bottom of the eighth, Simmons singled through the right side to open the inning. Griggs moved her to second on the sacrifice bunt, as Simmons raced to third on a foul out by Bell. On the very next play, Jaquish looked to have the game-winning hit, but the right fielder was playing shallow and made the play at first for the final out of the inning.
The game ended with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the ninth, as with one out and a 1-2 count on board, Walljasper sent the Tiger faithful out with a bang, belting the solo shot to the terrace in left field to propel LSU to the victory.
“I think it was just set up because we’re trying to play this best competition we can every chance we get,” Torina said. “It was a series we were excited about and we were thrilled to have them. Honestly, it was an honor to host them, they’re a class program. They played hard and every kid on the team was respectful and polite. I enjoyed hosting them and the atmosphere they brought to Tiger Park.”
Before and after the game, the team honored its five-member senior class of Bell, Alayna Falcon, Kloss, Jenna Kreamer and Simmons, putting a cap on the senior weekend festivities that took place over the span of the two-day series.
“This senior class is so special and it was nice to send them out in their last regular season game like this,” Torina said. “They deserve all the success in the world. They’re really special to me, their coach, and to this program, all the records they’ve set and the things they’ve done. They’re just awesome people and awesome players.”
LSU will be back in action on Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., opening the 2016 SEC Softball Tournament as the No. 7 seed, taking on the tenth-seeded Texas A&M Aggies at Nusz Park in Starkville. All games of the tournament will be televised, with the first two rounds on the SEC Network, semifinals on ESPNU and championship game on ESPN.
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.