The Tigers are set to take the field at 2 p.m. on Friday against Houston before closing out the day's action against Jackson State at 6 p.m. Other games on Friday feature Southern Miss against Houston at noon and Jackson State against Houston at 4 p.m.
"We are excited about playing at home," said LSU head coach Yvette Girouard. "We just want to continue to improve as a team like we have over the last few weeks. I think we are a fun team to watch and I hope the fans come out to support our efforts.
"We are welcoming in a Houston team that is coached by one of my all-time favorite players in Kyla Holas," Girouard continued. "She was the epitome of what a student-athlete should be. We are also hosting Southern Miss, which always battles us through thick and thin, and Jackson State."
At the plate, the Tigers are led by Louisiana Sports Writer's Association Hitter of the Week LaDonia Hughes. The junior from Farmville, Va., led the team with a .438 batting average in five games last week. She also recorded three RBIs and six runs scored with her first double and triple of the season and now leads the team in batting average, stolen bases and runs scored for the season.
With LSU trailing 4-2 against the 10th-ranked Sooners in the top of the fourth inning, Hughes knocked in the game-tying runs on a two-RBI single. In the top of the ninth inning, she knocked in the game-winning run on an RBI double as the Tigers went on to win, 7-4.
In the Tigers' only loss of the week, a 7-6 heartbreaker to No. 7 Cal State Fullerton, Hughes went 3-for-4 from the plate with a pair of runs scored. She also added a stolen base against the Titans. In a midweek doubleheader sweep of Northwestern State, she went 3-for-5 with a triple, three runs scored and a stolen base.
Junior Sara Fitzgerald is currently riding a team-best 10-game hitting streak. The streak is tied for the 11th-best in school history, just four games shy of Stacey Newton's school record 14-game hitting streak in 1998. After recording just four doubles and 11 RBIs in her previous two seasons combined, Fitzgerald has already hit six doubles and recorded 13 RBIs in 15 games this season.
In the circle, sophomore Tessa Lynam remains undefeated at 6-0. The right-hander is averaging 7.2 strikeouts per seven innings and combined with Kristin Schmidt for her first collegiate no-hitter against Cal Poly at the UNLV Softball Classic. Schmidt leads the team with a 0.96 earned run average and has a complete-game no-hitter against Baylor in addition to her combined no-hitter against Cal Poly this season.
This year marks the fourth year of the Purple & Gold Challenge. The Tigers have posted a 10-1 record overall, dropping only a 4-1 decision to No. 10 Southern Miss in 2000. Last year the Challenge was shortened due to snow flurries in the Baton Rouge area.
Since LSU reinstated its softball program in 1997, the Tigers are 7-4 all-time against Southern Miss. LSU is 5-3 all-time against the Lady Eagles in Baton Rouge, 2-0 in Hattiesburg, Miss., and 0-1 at neutral sites.
The pair has met on three previous occasions in the Purple & Gold Challenge, with LSU holding the 2-1 advantage. The Tigers have now won five in a row, outscoring Southern Miss 26-1 in that period. For her career, Girouard is 32-3 against Southern Miss, including a perfect 5-0 record while at LSU.
The Tigers are currently 1-0 all-time against both Jackson State and Houston. LSU defeated Houston, 13-0, in the Purple & Gold Challenge on March 2, 2001. The Tigers defeated Jackson State, 10-0, in the season opener last year on Feb. 9, in the Tiger Classic.
Friday, Feb. 28
Noon Southern Miss vs. Houston
2 p.m. Houston vs. LSU
4 p.m. Jackson State vs. Southern Miss
6 p.m. LSU vs. Jackson State