The hits just keep coming for the 10th-ranked LSU softball team, from 2-foot singles to 250-foot home runs. The Tigers had both of those among 14 hits in a 7-0 victory over Texas A&M on Saturday at Davis Diamond.
LSU (21-4, 2-0) hit a pair of home runs for a 5-0 lead in the first three innings and cruised to its sixth straight victory. The Tigers, who hit five home runs in Friday’s 17-3 victory to open Southeastern Conference play, picked up where they left off Saturday as Amanda Sanchez hit a two-run homer before A&M (15-8, 0-2) recorded an out.
LSU’s Elyse Thornhill provided the crunching blow, a three-run blast well beyond the fence in right-center field. A&M starting pitcher Payton McBride had recovered from the first home run to retire seven of eight batters, but Amanda Doyle blooped a two-out single into right and Shemiah Sanchez singled down the third-base line. The left-handed hitting Thornhill crushed a 2-1 pitch. Thornhill and Sanchez, who both hit homers Friday, entered the series having hit just one each this season.
The 5-0 lead was more than enough for LSU sophomore Shelbi Sunseri, who allowed only three singles. The right-hander retired 15 of 16 during one stretch with the batter who reached getting erased on a double play on the next pitch. A&M, which has scored more than four runs only once in five games, struck out only twice but seldom hit the ball hard.
“It’s nice to not strikeout, but I would rather have some strikeouts where we’re on time and looking for a pitch to hit,” A&M coach Jo Evans said. “I thought offensively we just really played right into [Sunseri’s] hand and she pitched a good game.”
A&M’s first two hitters reached, but the next three were retired without hitting the ball out of the infield.
“I thought we just had a lot of poor at-bats,” Evans said. “I thought we had lot of poor, throwaway at-bats. We are continuing to get beat on strikes that we’re not looking to drive, and then we’re chasing pitches out of the zone.”
A&M freshman Baylee Klingler had the team’s best hit, a sharp single into left-center field.
“I think we knew what she was throwing. We just weren’t able to make the necessary adjustments and attack the pitches we needed to attack,” said A&M senior Riley Sartain, who had an infield hit.
A&M has had 14 hits in the last three games, all singles.
“It’s one of those situations where you just kind of have to swing your way out,” Sartain said. “You have to be aggressive and willing to be able to attack the pitches which might not be your favorite to hit but they’re going to throw for strikes, and once we do that, we’ll start to see the results.”
LSU, meanwhile, has had no problem hitting this weekend. The Tigers, who entered the series hitting .348, are 27 of 59 this weekend, raising their average to .359. LSU has 37 homers, only four less than it hit all of last year, but it also hit 12 singles on Saturday, four of them bunts and another a swinging bunt.
“We need to do a better job of taking that away, whether it’s by where you position yourself prior to the pitch or reacting to it sooner or where we throw the pitch to give ourselves a chance to make a play,” Evans said.
LSU’s Aliyah Andrews, who had three singles which might have gone a combined 20 feet, opened the game with a bunt single and scored on Sanchez’s homer. The blast came on a hanging 0-2 mistake by McBride, but the big mistake on the second home run was that A&M couldn’t catch Doyle’s bloop and get McBride to the dugout.
“Two runs, that’s a whole lot different than five runs,” Evans said. “Defensively, I felt we just weren’t sharp, and I expect us to be sharp on defense. I expect that to be the thing that we can count on.”
A&M left fielder Blake Ann Fritsch dropped a foul ball in the first inning that led to McBride allowing a single and throwing extra pitches. Even the sure-handed Sartain at third base had a throwing error.
McBride (7-1) gave up 12 hits and six runs, both career highs, but Evans would put an asterisk next to those numbers.
“I think McBride threw a pretty good game today, and I think our defense didn’t take care of her,” Evans said.
Andrews and Sanchez set the table for LSU as each had three hits. Shemiah Sanchez (no relation) and Thornhill each added two.
“Our hitters are doing a great job of sticking to the plan,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “They are understanding what pitches to attack and what pitches to take, just doing a great job with their discipline.”
Sunseri, who also leads the team in homers with 11, was 1-for-4 batting with an opposite-field single. In the circle, she threw 114 pitches, only 69 of them strikes. She threw a first-pitch strike to only three of A&M’s first 10 hitters, but the Aggies couldn’t take advantage as she earned her fourth shutout of the season.
“She did a good job of throwing that ball down, and we just kept biting on it,” Evans said. “We just did a really poor job of making any kind of adjustment at the plate.”
NOTES — A&M junior leadoff hitter Kelbi Fortenberry drew the team’s only two walks but grounded out to short in her only official at-bat as her 12-game hitting streak came to an end. ... A&M, which is 0-2 in the SEC for the first time since joining the league, hasn’t had an extra-base hit or 10 hits in a game since a 7-1 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last Sunday. ... The crowd of 2,062 was the best of the season. ... Game 3 of the series is set for 3 p.m. Sunday. It will be televised by the SEC Network (Suddenlink Ch. 40).