Tigers throttle No. 1 Lady Vols

In front of the second largest crowd in LSU softball history, the fifth-ranked Tigers earned the series win over top-ranked Tennessee, 3-2, on Senior Day at Tiger Park on Sunday afternoon.

The crowd of 1,531, second only to Saturday's record 2,326, witnessed LSU earn its third win over a No. 1-ranked team in the last two seasons and move into a tie for the Southeastern Conference championship with an overall record of 48-8 and a 21-4 mark in league play. Following the conclusion of the game, the Tigers honored their three seniors – Kristen Hobbs, Emily Turner and Leslie Klein – who all played an important part in LSU's win on Sunday, in a ceremony on the field.


"It was great the way we did Senior Day at the end because this group is so loved and we were able to give them their due," said LSU head coach Yvette Girouard. "The whole atmosphere was so emotional, so it was great we did it at the end. And it was a whole lot sweeter with the win."


The Tigers are now tied with the Lady Vols, who dropped to 51-4 on the year and 21-4 in SEC play, and Alabama, who swept Kentucky this weekend and stands at 51-4 and 21-4 in conference play. Tennessee and Alabama play next weekend in Knoxville, while the purple and gold travel to Athens, Ga., for a three-game series with Georgia to conclude league play. LSU controls its own fate for the SEC Championship as the Tigers hold the tie breakers over both the Crimson Tide and Lady Vols.


"We've got to finish this and that's the tough part," said Girouard. "We've got to remain very focused and do our job in Athens next weekend."


LSU used a loss of control by pitcher Monica Abbot to their advantage as it put up three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Three Tiger players reached on walks and one was hit by a pitch in the inning, marking just the second three-walk inning for Abbott in her career and the first since her second career appearance as a freshman.


"Sometimes that's the game of softball," said Girouard. "A lot of times you are not on the receiving end of breaks and we got some breaks. She (Abbott) ran into some control problems and we took full advantage of that."


Klein led off the second with a six pitch walk, coming back from an 0-2 count to draw the free pass. Freshman Rachel Mitchell then earned the second walk of the inning as she also battled back from an 0-2 count to take her base and send Klein to second. Junior Killian Roessner was then hit by a pitch to load the bases.


After junior Erika Sluss came in to pinch run for Roessner at first, junior Tayl'r Hollis came to the plate. With a 3-1 count, Hollis was awarded a ball by home plate umpire Rodney Roth after Abbott continued to take too much time in the circle. The result was a bases loaded walk by Hollis for the first run of the game.


Hobbs then came through with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Mitchell from third and sent Hollis and Sluss to second and third. With two outs, freshman Jazz Jackson earned her second RBI of the weekend on a single down the left field line just over the head of the Tennessee third baseman, giving LSU the 3-0 lead, which would eventually hold up.


In the top of the fifth, the Lady Vols got on the board for the first time. Erinn Webb was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Danielle Pieroni then drew a walk as Turner worked herself into a little trouble. A sacrifice bunt by Liane Horiuchi sent Webb and Lillian Hammond, running for Pieroni, to second and third. On a fly ball to left center by India Chiles, Webb was able to score from third on the sacrifice, which cut the lead to 3-1.


Tennessee got its final run in the seventh as the Lady Vols stranded the tying run at third. With one out, Jennifer Griffin drew a walk. A double to right center by pinch hitter Anita Manuma, the first pinch hitter to earn a hit against LSU all season, Griffin came around to score.


Sophomore Dani Hofer then came on in relief of Turner and got Chiles to ground out to her in the circle as Horiuchi, re-entering for Manuma, moved to third. Kenora Posey then popped out to Shannon Stein at second base to end the game.


Turner improved to 3-2 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams as the Chula Vista, Calif., native started and earned the win to improve to 17-5 on the season. She allowed two runs on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts in six and a third innings. Hofer came on to earn her second save of the season, the first coming in the series finale against No. 2 Alabama, and retired both batters she faced to end the game.


"This weekend kind of ran into form of what's been happening all season," said Girouard. "One pitcher starts the first game on Saturday, the next one starts the second game and then it's a team effort on Sunday. Perhaps I should have pulled her (Emily) sooner, but Dani came in and did a great job."


Abbott took the complete-game loss to fall to 39-2 on the season. She allowed three runs on two hits with four costly walks and five strikeouts. After striking out 13 on Saturday, she was held to only five on Sunday, as she moved into a tie with former Texas hurler Cat Osterman for the NCAA career strikeouts record, but was unable to break it.


The Tigers have now faced No. 1-ranked teams on nine occasions. LSU has recorded a 3-6 record in those games, with all three wins coming in the last two seasons. The Tigers defeated No. 1 Arizona in the second game of the NCAA Super Regionals last year to force a decisive third game, marking the Wildcats' first and only loss in the program's history in a game at home that would have sent Arizona to the Women's College World Series.


LSU will now close out the regular season with a trip to Athens, Ga. The Tigers will face Georgia in a three game series, beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT and concluding with a single game on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.


LSU will then participate in the SEC Tournament the following weekend in Auburn, Ala., which has currently yet to qualify for the postseason tournament. The three-day single elimination tournament will give one of the eight participating teams an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament before the field is announced on Sunday, May 13.




Game 1: Tennessee 2, LSU 1

Game 2: LSU 5, Tennessee 1


In front of the largest crowd in Southeastern Conference softball history, the fifth-ranked Tigers split an SEC doubleheader with No. 1-ranked Tennessee, losing the first game, 2-1, before coming back to win the nightcap, 5-1, on Saturday afternoon at Tiger Park.


Besting the previous LSU attendance record by more than 800, the crowd of 2,326 saw the purple and gold earn its second win over a No. 1-ranked team in two years, handing the Lady Vols their worst loss of the season, tying an 0-4 loss to nationally ranked Florida. Last year, LSU earned a win at No. 1-ranked and eventual national champion Arizona in the NCAA Super Regionals. The Tigers improved to 47-8 on the year and 20-4 in league play. Tennessee moved to 51-3 overall and 21-3 in conference play.


"First of all, I have to thank our fans for showing up today and being so effective, giving us a boost and making these players feel like they matter," said LSU head coach Yvette Girouard. "I thought we battled all day long."


In the nightcap, Klein tied former Tiger Julie Wiese for the LSU career home run record with her 31st blast. The Sunrise, Fla., native knocked in all five of the Tigers' five runs as part of a 3-for-3 outing with a double. In addition, the center fielder made a run-saving catch as she went into the wall in left center field to pull down what would have been at least a two-run double in the top of the fifth.


"I thought we played outstanding defense all day long and you are never going to see a better catch than Klein's," said Girouard. "That was one of the prettiest catches you will ever see. Tayl'r (Hollis) also played unbelievable at third base."


LSU had nine hits in the contest, the most allowed by Tennessee all season, which included Klein's outing and a 3-for-3 performance by freshman Rachel Mitchell with a pair of runs scored by both Mitchell and freshman Jazz Jackson.


Turner earned her second career victory over a top-ranked team with the complete game effort. She improved to 16-5 on the season, limiting the Lady Vols to one run on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Last season, she earned LSU's first win over a No. 1-ranked team after knocking off Arizona in the NCAA Super Regionals on the road in Tucson, Ariz.


"Tennessee is a very good offensive team in that they put the ball in play," said Girouard. "Their slappers are as pretty a slapping group as you'll ever find because they are mechanically so smooth. They are so fast that they put pressure on you all the time."


In the top of the first inning, Tennessee got its only run of the game. Kenora Posey recorded a one-out walk. She moved to second on an infield ground out. After Tonya Callahan was hit by a pitch, Tiffany Huff blooped an RBI single into right field that scored Posey for the 1-0 Lady Vol lead.


In the bottom of the third, LSU jumped back on top to stay. The Tigers got a one out single by Jackson. A single through the right side by Mitchell sent Jackson to third. Klein then doubled to right center, allowing both Jackson and Mitchell to score.


Klein put the game away in the bottom of the fifth with her three-run home run. Kristen Hobbs led off with a single up the middle. After a fielder's choice by Jackson put her on first with one out, Mitchell singled once again, sending Jackson to third. Klein then nailed a 1-2 pitch over the right center field wall to put LSU ahead, 5-1.


Megan Rhodes took the complete-game loss, just her second of the year, to fall to 12-2 on the season. She allowed five runs on nine hits with two strikeouts.


In the first game, the Lady Vols got one break in the fifth inning and used it to earn the win. LSU took the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by Jackson that scored Shannon Stein from second after a double. Stein finished 2-for-3 with two of the Tigers' four hits in the game.


Tennessee came back in the fifth with two runs to take the lead that would prove to be the final. Liane Horiuchi reached on a fielding error by Stein to lead off the inning. A sacrifice bunt sent her to second. On a single by India Chiles, Horiuchi moved to third. Chiles then stole second to put a pair in scoring position. With two outs, Lindsay Schutzler singled on a bloop into right center that allowed both Horiuchi and the speedy Chiles to score.


"They put a bunt down when they needed to and then they executed," said Girouard. "That was the difference in the first game, along with (Monica) Abbott. In a game of this magnitude, everything little thing counts and it did count today, but it counted against us."


Dani Hofer took just her second loss of the season and first in conference play to fall to 21-2 overall. Allowing just two unearned runs on six hits with a walk, she also recorded five strikeouts. Abbott earned the win for Tennessee. She allowed a run on four hits with a walk and 13 strikeouts in the complete-game effort.


"Dani threw very well today, but Tennessee got the hits when they needed to," said Girouard. ‘It's very hard to keep that offense from scoring because, again, they have a lot of weapons and put the ball in play a lot."

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