BATON ROUGE, La. -- Down by a run with its final three outs left, LSU was staring down another heartbreaking loss until an RBI single by Sahvanna Jaquish and three-run home run by Bianka Bell gave the Tigers a 7-4 walk-off win against Tennessee in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night in the series opener between the two teams at Tiger Park.
Plagued by miscues that allowed four unearned runs to cross the plate in consecutive innings early, the Tigers (21-15, 3-7 SEC) were being outhit by the Lady Vols (31-4, 8-2) 7-4 up until the final inning when the team got three. A.J. Andrews led off with a single to kick start the LSU rally that snapped a five-game SEC losing streak and a seven-game losing streak to UT that stretched back to the 2010 season.
“That has to be one of my favorite wins here since I’ve been the coach at LSU,” head coach Beth Torina said. “A lot of things we have struggled with this season came together and resulted in what we are trying to do every day right there. The kid who has had trouble scoring people steps up and gets the big hit that she is capable of hitting and we know she is capable of hitting. It was a really fun win for this team.”
Bell, who committed an error that allowed the first two Tennessee runs to score in the second inning, made good and came through when it counted most as she finished 2-for-3 with three RBI on her seventh home run of the season and a run scored. That capped the team’s sixth comeback win of the season and give Tennessee starter Ellen Renfroe her first loss of the year.
“That was definitely a shock for me,” Bell said. “I have been in pressure positions like that before, and I couldn’t come through. Now that I know I can come through, I can keep it going for the rest of the year.”
Not to be outdone, but it seemed that leadoff junior outfielder A.J. Andrews would be the hero of the night as she stepped to the plate in the third and drilled her first home run of the season to put LSU up 3-2 as she finished the night 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. Jaquish was one of six Tigers to have at least one hit on the night with an RBI, as Jacee Blades, Allison Falcon and Simone Heyward each had one with a run scored.
After taking a pair of tough losses, LSU starter Ashley Czechner did everything possible to keep the team in the game and came out on the other side with her seventh victory of the season after scattering seven hits with four runs, all unearned, with two walks and two strikeouts. For UT and USA Softball Player of the Week in Renfroe, she was tagged for all seven runs on eight hits with two walks and a strikeout, matching season highs in runs and hits allowed, and season low in strikeouts to fall to 21-1.
After getting through the first two batters with relative ease, the Tigers began to put things in motion when Jaquish reached on an error at third base. Bell followed that up with the first base knock of the contest with a high-chopping single through the left side to put two on for LSU in the very first inning. With LSU seeming to put something together early, an infield grounder to the shortstop ended the inning.
With two outs and one runner on for the Lady Vols, a single put two on for Tennessee in the top of the second inning. A walk on five pitches loaded the bases, as the inning looked to be coming to a close on a grounder to short but an error on the attempted forced out at second allowed two runs to score to put UT ahead on a pair of unearned runs. With runners at the corners, a stolen base and walk put three more back on for Tennessee, but a fly out to center ended the inning.
With UT going on top, the lead would be short lived as Falcon earned an infield single by beating out the throw from second. After an out to left field, Heyward singled in the infield and it allowed Falcon to motor to third to put runners at the corners for the Tigers. Heyward would steal third, but both runners would get an easy trot in as Andrews sent a screamer to right center putting LSU on top 3-2. Blades would also single on the next play, but was left stranded as a grounder to third ended the inning.
Three consecutive singles by Tennessee loaded the bases in the top of the third, but the Tiger defense came through big as Falcon scooped up a grounder and threw out the lead runner at home with Kellsi Kloss throwing out the batter at first for the big double play. A linedrive to left was supposed to be the sure out to end the inning, but another error with the ball dropping out of the glove allowed two more unearned runs to cross giving UT the lead back at 4-3. Another single put runners at the corners, but a deep fly to center ended the frame.
After going down in order in the fifth and sixth inning, Andrews singled down the right field line to take first. After moving to second after a walk to Blades, Jaquish hit a shot to left and scored Andrews from second to tie the game at 4-4. On the second pitch of her at bat, Bell reared back and hit a no-doubter to left center for the fourth run on the frame’s third hit.