STARKVILLE, Miss. – For the second time in the last three days the No. 12 LSU softball team needed to piece together a comeback for the ages, and led by a pinch-hit single by Elyse Thornhill and capped by a Kellsi Kloss infield single, the Tigers stormed back to defeat the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies 5-4 in walk-off fashion in the first round of the 2016 SEC Softball Tournament Wednesday in Starkville.
Down by two runs and unable to produce anything offensively for four innings, LSU (43-14) used one of its trademark comeback efforts by earning four of its nine hits in the bottom of the seventh to plate the three runs it needed to survive and advance to Thursday where the Tigers will take on the Kentucky Wildcats at 1:30 p.m. at Nusz Park.
“I liked the fight in my team today,” head coach Beth Torina said. “We got some really gutsy performances from some kids off the bench and from those in the lineup.”
The Tigers got a pair of multiple hit performances at the top, middle and bottom of the order on the afternoon, as Kloss finished the day going 2-for-4 with two RBIs, none bigger than the walkoff in the seventh to ice the game. Simmons was 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored, while Bailey Landry got it done in both phases, making a highlight-reel defensive catch in the outfield, while helping charge the rally by going 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored.
“Going into the bottom of the seventh, I knew that we were not going to go out today. I had all the confidence in the world in every single one of our players,” Simmons said. “When I was up to bat I just knew I had to step up and be clutch for our team and find a way to move my teammates into scoring position.”
Carley Hoover (16-7) earned the win by coming on in relief of starter Sydney Smith and allowing just a single run on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Smith allowed three runs on six hits with two strikeouts and a walk in 2.2 innings of work.
Texas A&M (37-18) was poised for the win, paced by starting pitcher Trinity Harrington (7-8), but in the end she suffered the loss as she allowed five runs, three earned, with two strikeouts and four walks for the Aggies. Samantha Show came in and got one out and had a walk, facing just two batters in the game. Ashley Walters had just one hit, but it was a three-run home run to give Texas A&M the lead after LSU opened with a pair of runs in each of the first inning.
With an out in the bottom of the first inning, Emily Griggs reached on an error at short with a walk to Bianka Bell putting two on. Bell would be put out on a fielder’s choice to put LSU runners at the corners with two outs, as Kloss would drop a single down the left field line to bring in Griggs to make it 1-0 LSU.
With an out in the top of the second a triple put an Aggie runner steps away from scoring. On the very next play, however, a chopper back to Amber Serrett allowed her to throw home on the late break to get the out at the plate to keep TAMU off the board. After another single to put two on, Landry saved one, if not two runs, from crossing with a diving catch in right to end the inning.
With an out in the bottom half of that same frame, Constance Quinn doubled to right center to reach base. LSU was able to extend the lead on the very next play, as Landry singled through the right side to score Quinn to make it 2-0 Tigers.
A single to third opened the third, with a single through the right side putting two on. An infield grounder forced out the lead runner at third, but it would be no match for what Texas A&M did next as a three-run home run gave the opposition the lead at 3-2, as after a foul out a walk ended Smith’s day.
A double to open the fifth put a Texas A&M runner in scoring position, as after two foul outs it looked like LSU would get out of the inning unscathed, but a single to right brought in the runner to make it 4-2 Aggies.
Landry reached on a fielding error at short to reach first to open the bottom of the fifth. An infield single by Simmons put two on, with an infield pop-up putting the first out on the board. A walk to Bell loaded the bases, but an inopportune double play turned by Texas A&M ended the LSU threat keeping the score at 4-2.
Down to their final three outs, Thornhill came on to pinch hit and ripped a single through the middle of the defense to reach, as Akiya Thymes came on to run at first as Landry put two on with an infield single. Simmons ripped a single down the line in left to score Thymes and pull LSU within one at 4-3.
Texas A&M went to the bullpen for Show, as on the first at-bat Griggs did her part by laying down a sacrifice bunt to third to advance the two to second and third, leaving an open base that would be occupied by Bell, as Harrington came back into the game and intentionally walked the senior to load the bases.
A passed ball allowed Landry to score to tie the game at 4-4, as the result allowed Jaquish to get intentionally walked to re-load the bases for LSU again. It set the table for Kloss who ripped a shot in the infield that resulted in the game-winning hit to score Simmons to give LSU the walk-off 5-4 win to advance to Thursday contest against Kentucky.
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