BATON ROUGE, La. -- In a nationally-televised battle between two of the most powerful offenses this season, a pitcher’s duel broke out from the jump and was only halted from the bat of Bianka Bell, who helped catapult the No. 1 Tigers to 1-0 victory against the No. 6 Sooners with her solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning on Friday.
Combining for an average of 17 runs per game heading into Friday, the two sides were locked in a tight battle that by the end of the night produced just four total hits, with LSU (29-1) getting the only base knock that mattered to shut out Oklahoma (24-4) for the first time all season.
“Every single game this entire year we have had a big inning of three plus runs, every inning of the year so far. This is the first game where we really pitched, played great defense, and be able to throw a shutout,” said head coach Beth Torina. “Our offense just answered with the one run. It’s nice to see us able to win in a lot of different ways. This is just another dimension that makes this team stronger.”
Tigers starting pitcher Carley Hoover (8-1) rose to the occasion, earning her second shutout of the season and her fifth complete-game effort of the year by holding the visitors to only two hits with five strikeouts and one walk. OU managed only three runners with just one advancing to second on the evening.
“It was a pretty big one tonight,” said Hoover. “I couldn’t be more thankful for my defense. I knew I could always count on Bianka and she said she had my back tonight. We had a great crowd tonight. Just really fun.”
Bell provided the fireworks late to finish the night 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, but Constance Quinn gave LSU its first hit of the night in the bottom of the second inning for the other. LSU had opportunities to at least plate some runs, stranding seven total runners on base with three coming on a bases loaded opportunity early.
“I was just thinking stay relaxed, don’t let her get you out on the same pitch twice,” said Bell. “Just come up with a hit and find a way to get on base. I knew it was good right off the bat.”
OU starting pitcher Paige Parker (10-3) suffered the loss after allowing the one run on two hits with eight strikeouts and four walks. Along with the four walks, she gave up five free passes on the night with a hit batter, tossing 103 total pitches. The only help from her offense came from hits by Nicole Pendley and Lea Wodlach, as the rest of the team grounded out nine times and flew out seven times.
“Parker threw a great game. She is really talented. They have a lot going for their program for sure,” said Torina. “I always say if you have offense you have hope. We have a great offense. I thought someone would break through for us, and we did.”
After nearly two full innings of hitless softball, a walk to Dylan Supak in the bottom of the second put one on for LSU with two outs on the board. Quinn snapped that streak on the next play dropping one into the short porch in left for the game’s first hit to put two on. Emily Griggs earned a walk to load the bases for the Tigers, but a strikeout ended the inning.
With nothing going for either team, Bell came up to the plate hoping to at least even up the number of hits after OU got one in the top half of the sixth. With two strikes and fouling off some pitches, she connected in a big way by hitting a no-doubter to center to give LSU a 1-0 lead on the first run of the game.
Sahvanna Jaquish reached on an error in the circle to reach first, as Kloss was hit on the arm to put two on. Sandra Simmons sacrificed on a bunt to advance the two runners up a base, but both would be stranded after a strikeout and foul out.
“Coach was just telling us about how offense wins games, but defense wins championships,” said Bell. “Having solid defense and solid pitching just shows how good our team is and how good we’re going to be the rest of the season.”
Hoover closed the game decisively, as after getting a foul out to left and grounder to short, closed the door with a strikeout to send the team to the win.
“I look at every game as an opportunity,” said Hoover. “That’s why I came to the SEC, that’s why I came to LSU; to play teams like this and to be on a team like this.”