An impromptu doubleheader, the threat of an impending downpour and a comeback attempt in the seventh inning by the Tigers weren’t enough to deter No. 10 Tennessee (34-8, 8-7) from sweeping the series versus No. 14 LSU (32-10, 7-7) on Saturday.
“It’s huge,” co-head coach Karen Weekly said of winning the series. “With LSU having two All-American senior pitchers, with us having to play a doubleheader today. With everything set up, it worked against us because we don’t have the pitching depth they do.”
Much like Friday, Tennessee answered early in the bottom of the first. Junior leadoff hitter Aubrey Leach advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a passed ball at the plate to put the Lady Vols up, 1-0.
After a rough first inning, LSU’s Hoover settled in, and a pitcher’s duel with Tennessee’s Matty Moss ensued, as neither team was able to plate a run over the next two innings.
Finally, in the bottom half of the third, Leach was again able to extend the Tennessee lead thanks to another passed ball at home to make it a 2-0 advantage.
An RBI double in the bottom of the sixth from senior Scarlet McSwain allowed pinch runner Treasury Poindexter to score from third, taking on another run and making a 3-0 game heading into what would be the final frame.
The Tigers wouldn’t go away quietly, as they were fighting for a shot to take it to game three to decide the series victor. LSU singled down the right-field line to score a run and cut Tennessee’s lead to 3-1.
It was a fitting end for the junior pitcher, as Moss (16-3), who recorded four strikeouts while only allowing three hits and a run, closed out the game to secure the win for Tennessee.
“I’m so proud of our (team),” Weekly said. “Sticking to our game plan, even though we were struggling, just continuing to battle and doing enough to score and beat them. I really have to hand it to our pitchers. They got us out of a lot of jams.”
The series finale was a back and forth affair, as LSU took three different lead changes that Tennessee was able to answer every time. The Tigers pounced early to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first off of a fly-out RBI from centerfielder Emily Griggs to score leftfielder Alyiah Andrews.
After holding Tennessee scoreless in the bottom of the first and second, LSU would score again in the top of the third from an RBI single courtesy of Shemiah Sanchez.
The Lady Vols would finally find an answer in the bottom of the third, as McSwain continued her standout weekend with a two-RBI double to right centerfield to tie the game, 2-2.
“Huge weekend for Scarlet (McSwain),” Weekly said. “Again, somebody with a lot of talent. When she gets up there and just starts trusting her eyes, good things happen.”
The Tigers broke the tie in the following frame, taking a 3-2 lead off of a wild pitch from Tennessee freshman Gabby Sprang, but another wild pitch from Hoover would plate a tying run scored by none other than Aubrey Leach, making it her third score off of a wild pitch in both games.
LSU took its third lead of the game in the top of the sixth, tagging up on a fly out to the warning track in left field to go up, 4-3.
The Tigers took their lead into the bottom of the seventh, hoping to salvage the series and not head back to the bayou empty handed. But as the storm clouds began to roll in from the west, sophomore third baseman Chelsea Seggern wasn’t about to let LSU out easily.
Facing one out with Holcomb on first, Seggern hit a grounder to second that looked like it was going to set up a game-ending double play. But Tigers second baseman Becca Schulte wasn’t able to field the ball as it rolled all of the way to the fence in centerfield.
Holcomb scored the tying run from first, and the game was set up to head into extra innings, tied up again at 4-4.
“That’s what we kept saying: ‘You’ve got to quit striking out,” Weekly said. “Put the bat on the ball and make them make plays. Good things happen when you put the ball in play. We took advantage of the help we got.”
A winner was decided in the bottom of the eighth when Haley Bearden, facing a 2-2 count with no outs, blasted a walk-off, two-run homer over the bleachers in left centerfield for the 6-4 series-sweeping win.
“I was just trying to be calm and not make it any bigger than it is,” Bearden said. “I just got up there and saw the ball well, and I swung. I was just so happy I could do it for my team.”
Tennessee will ride a four-game win streak into the week as it gets ready for a midweek game with ETSU on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium.