Andrews frustrates South Alabama
Aliyah Andrews is fast.
The senior center fielder was responsible for the Tigers’ first hit in their rout of South Alabama on Tuesday night in Tiger Park when she smacked a double and stole third base.
Her heist seemed to frustrate the Jaguars’ head coach, who called an unusually early visit to the circle after her pitcher faced only two batters.
When Andrews stepped up to the plate again, she laid down a bunt and flew down the first-base line, successfully recording a single. She then stole second base, and South Alabama once again convened in the center of the diamond.
In her third plate appearance, Andrews hit a short, soft slap with a runner, Savannah Stewart, on third. A Jaguar fielded the ball, but sailed it over her catcher’s head, and Stewart scored. Andrews once again stood on second, and South Alabama was, once again, frustrated.
“She was just trying to put a ball in the infield that they had to come get,” Head Coach Beth Torina said after the game. “I’m sure that was intentional on her part.”
In her LSU career, Andrews has stolen 118 bases, the second-most in program history. She must grab 38 more to break LSU’s all-time record set by Dee Douglas in 2001. Through 24 games in 2020, she has stolen 16 bases on 17 attempts and is hitting .408.
Andrews is on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top-50 Watch List and the Preseason All-SEC team.
Kilponen retires nine
Ali Kilponen is asked what her favorite pitch is.
The sophomore pitcher turns, smiles and quickly blurts out, “Rise-ball.”
After helping strike out 15 batters on Saturday in the Tigers’ win against Illinois State, Kilponen’s rise-ball helped send nine more unsuccessful hitters back to the dugout on Tuesday night.
Twenty-four strikeouts in two starts is an impressive number, but listen only to Kilponen, and you may think otherwise.
“I think I had some pitches that were really on,” she said, “and there’s always room for improvement. I have to go work on my curveball a little bit more, make sure I can get it in for a strike as well as for a ball.”
Kilponen is a key member of LSU’s pitching rotation, which has dominated the first part of the season. Entering Tuesday, the Tigers’ 0.93 ERA leads the nation, and sophomore Shelby Wickersham sports a 0.40 ERA, the best mark in the country. The Tigers’ arms have thrown one perfect game, three no-hitters, three one-hitters and plenty of strikeouts.
“I’m just not really worried about strikeouts,” Kilponen said. “Just trying to get outs, 21 outs first, that’s all I’m worried about.”
On the subject of Kilponen’s best pitch, Torina disagrees with her star pitcher.
“What’s her best pitch?” Torina clarified. “The hard one.”
Over the Tigers’ last five games, they have outscored their opponents — Campbell, Illinois State and South Alabama — 51-4.
LSU sits at 21-3, heading into SEC play, which begins on the road against South Carolina on March 13.
“I think we’re in a perfect spot,” sophomore outfielder Savannah Stewart said.
Torina agrees: “They’ve done everything they’ve needed to do.”
Torina says she is focused on winning the SEC, but her goal for the rest of the season may differ slightly from Stewart’s.
“We expect to be in the World Series this year,” Stewart said. “and we’re expected to be at the top.”
Do they expect to win it all?
“Yeah,” she said. “That’s our expectation every single day we come out here. We’re working towards that."