BATON ROUGE, La. – A pair of runs would be all the No. 14 LSU softball team would need to score in the finale of its SEC series on Sunday, as some defensive stops and a solid pitching performance from freshman Sydney Smith in the circle proved to be the difference in a 2-0 win for the Tigers over the South Carolina Gamecocks to earn the series sweep Sunday afternoon at Tiger Park.
After two solid days of play offensively, the Tiger (36-13, 10-11 Southeastern) defense stole the show on Sunday and got a huge boost in the form of a game-tying solo home run being robbed by Sandra Simmons in left field early on for South Carolina (32-16, 5-13) that kept the visitors off the board and helped propel LSU to the victory and it’s first sweep of a conference opponent this season.
I think that is how the SEC goes. No one is going to roll over and die for you on a Sunday even after you beat them in the first two games,” head coach Beth Torina said.
LSU got both of its runs in various ways, with heads up base running and a long ball to put the home side ahead, as Bianka Bell belted the home run, her 10th of the season, while Constance Quinn and Amber Serrett each had hits. Sahvanna Jaquish had a double for her only hit, scoring on the first of two errors for South Carolina in the bottom of the second to put LSU up first.
“It was a good job by the team. We did a lot of good things this weekend scoring lots of runs and doing our jobs,” Bell said. “Our pitchers did a great job in the circle this past weekend getting us out of jams and working with a few things. Some of them didn’t throw their best games but they came back and fought through the entire game. Finding a way to get outs and getting the lead runners, and just an overall good job by us.”
After allowing a single hit in the second, Smith (9-2) retired the next 12 in a row and sat the side down in order in four of the seven innings on the day to earn her sixth shutout of the season Sunday, scattering three hits and striking out four with no walks.
“It really helped me move along on the mound,” Smith said. “Honestly, having them have my back each game and knowing that wherever I put the ball they’re going to field it, it’s just awesome having teammates like that.”
Nickie Blue (15-12) suffered the loss, allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Lauren Masters, Kennedy Clark and Ansley Ard had the three hits for South Carolina on the day.
Jaquish opened the bottom of the second inning with a ripped double down the line in left to put a Tiger runner in scoring position. After successive outs, Quinn poked one through the left side of the defense for the single as an error in left allowed Jaquish to come home to score to give LSU a 1-0 lead.
With one out in the top of the third, a sky-high shot was lifted deep to left that was bound for the terrace, but Simmons timed her jump just right to make the catch at the wall and save the game-tying homer from leaving the park.
“I just saw it and thought it was hit right to me, but then I realized it was a little bit deeper so I just kept going back,” Simmons said. “Emily (Griggs) was there to help me and she just let me know that I had room, and I was able to catch it. If it wasn’t out, it was very close to hitting the top of the wall.”
LSU doubled its lead in the very first at-bat of the fourth, as Bell went deep into the count before launching one down the line in left for the solo shot to put the Tigers up 2-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, Serrett singled to left to reach first, as Landry came up next and hit a grounder to second as Serrett was originally called out, but was reversed as both were now on base with South Carolina head coach Beverly Smith arguing the call before getting ejected in the frame. The next two batters would go down in order leaving the two with the Tigers still leading.
South Carolina gained a bit of momentum in the top of the sixth, as with an out an infield single put one on, with a fielder’s choice forcing out that runner at second on the next play. Another infield single put two on for the Gamecocks for the first time on the day, but an infield popup ended the threat.
The Gamecocks would get two more on in the seventh due to an error and a hit batter, but Smith’s fourth strikeout of the day came at the perfect time, closing the door and ending the day to secure the sweep.
LSU closes out its home stand on Tuesday, hosting the McNeese State Cowgirls at 6 p.m. at Tiger Park.
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