Power display propels Tigers to victory

In her press conference during Media Day, LSU head coach Yvette Girouard talked about how reductions in the core of the ball and bat limitations were going to sway the strength of the league back to the pitchers. <br><br> Yeah right. <br><br> Paced by three home runs, the 14th-ranked LSU Tigers defeated Illinois 7-3 to conclude their first day in the 2004 Tiger Classic.

After both teams were held scoreless for the first two innings, LSU (2-0) broke out on top with two runs in the sixth inning. After Lauren Castle struck out to lead off the inning, Leslie Klein singled into right field and scored on a double by Julie Wiese. Wiese would score on the very next pitch on an error by shortstop Lindsey Hamma on a grounder by Lauren Delahoussaye.


The LSU power made its presence felt in the fourth inning. Sophomore Stephanie Hill, who had only five at-bats in 2003, launched a pitch deep over the left field wall for her first career home run.


The Harahan native was happy to take advantage of her rare starting opportunity.


"It feels good," Hill said. "The first time at-bat the pitcher froze me inside and I wasn't going to let her get me again. It was up and in the middle of the plate, and it felt great."


Hill was joined in the home run club an inning later when Camille Harris and Kristen Hobbs both launched their first home runs of the season. LaDonia Hughes and Delahoussaye both walked and scored on a mammoth three-run homer by Harris.


After Hill struck out looking, Hobbs took the next pitch deep over the left field wall for her first career homerun.


The true freshman from Royal Palm Beach, Florida was excited to take advantage of her first career start.


"It was definitely what I expected," Hobbs said. "I thought it was going to be really exciting. I didn't want to come out nervous so I just came out and played. My first start of the season just felt amazing."


Girouard was surprised with her team's powerful performance Friday night.


"The bats seem to be breaking in lately," Girouard said. "We swung the bats well and the ball jumped off our bats."


While the LSU hitters were showing off their power, senior All-American Kristin Schmidt (1-0) was her normal dominant self in the circle. Picking up the complete game victory, Schmidt gave up only two earned run on six hits and struck out 10.


"The first game is always a little nerve racking," Schmidt said. "But overall it was a good outing. It felt good out there."


Working on an addition to her already impressive pitching arsenal, Schmidt was happy with her drop ball debut.


"I felt really comfortable throwing that tonight," Schmidt said. "It was working well tonight."


Girouard felt Schmidt continues to show why she is one of the best pitchers in the country.


"She gave up a couple of runs but nothing seemed to be hit hard off of her," Girouard said. "The great thing about her is that she has an arsenal of pitches and she doesn't really does not really hurt herself."



LSU 9 Centenary 0


LSU opened the 2004 season with an impressive 9-0 five-inning victory over Centenary (0-1) in the Tiger Classic.


Senior centerfielder LaDonia Hughes led the Tigers, going 3-4 with four RBI, including her first career homerun.


LSU (1-0) got the scoring started in the second inning when Sara Fitzgerald's double off the left-field wall scored pinch runner Lauren Uhle. Fitzgerald would score two pitches later on a slap single by sophomore Lauren Castle. After Leslie Klein reached on an error and stole second, she would score on a single by Hughes and the Tigers had a 3-0 lead.


Making her debut as an LSU Tiger after transferring from Louisiana-Lafayette, Castle was excited to play in Tiger Park.


"I was a little nervous at first," Castle said. "But I was really excited. Once I got out there I felt comfortable. It was like being on the practice field. The same things are repetitive, we've done them over and over again in practice, and our preparation showed tonight."


Starting the season 2-3 with one run driven in, Fitzgerald said she was happy to get back into the swing of things.


"We were all just loose and ready to go," Fitzgerald said. "I was just relaxed and taking one at-bat at a time and working for good pitches."


After scoring a single run in the fourth inning, LSU exploded for five runs in the fifth inning. After a groundout by Leigh Ann Danos to lead off the inning, Fitzgerald and Castle singled and Klein doubled scoring Danos.


Hughes then launched a screamer down the right field line that got under the glove of right-fielder Micah Rhodes. The speedster from Farmville, Va. was able to fly around the bases for a very rare inside-the-park three-run homerun.


Nearly fully recovered from a broken bone in her hand, Girouard expects big things from Hughes.

"She's nearly all the way back now," Girouard said. "She is just a great player and I think she showed it today."


Hughes said she is looking forward to a successful and healthy senior campaign.


"This is my last year and I'm just playing every game like it is my last," Hughes said. "We've got nothing to lose.


"I'm not really even worried about my wrist anymore; I'm just worried about making contact and helping my team."


In the circle for the Tigers, freshman sensation Emily Turner made her first career start. Struggling with nerves and control the first two innings, the Buena Vista native settled down to pick up the complete game shutout victory. Turner (1-0) gave up only two hits and walked two while striking out seven.


"Coach said it would be completely natural if I didn't go out there and have butterflies in my stomach something would be wrong with me," Turner said. "It was just normal nerves.


"I wasn't focused the first couple of innings. I was just scared thinking I didn't want to go out here and get racked by these girls. After that first inning, I said to myself I'm just going to come out here and pitch my game."


Girouard was happy to see her young right-hander settle down and pick up her first career victory.

"It's tough for freshman," Girouard said. "If you can get them over their nerves and break the ice for them, I think they will settle down and she did."

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