Bell’s three-run blast lifts LSU over Tennessee

Capping off a game where nothing seemed to happen the way it should, Bianka Bell slammed a game-winning three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh, lifting LSU to a 7-4 win over third-ranked Tennessee at Tiger Park.

Bell’s hit completed a four-run rally for LSU (21-15, 3-7 Southeastern Conference), which had spotted Tennessee four unearned runs thanks to two costly errors. The rally also tagged Volunteer pitcher Ellen Renfroe (21-1) with her first loss of the season.

“This has to be one of my favorite wins since I’ve been the coach at LSU,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “A lot of the things we’ve struggled with this season came together. It resulted in exactly what we’re trying to do every day.

“A kid steps up at the end and gets the big hit that we all know she’s capable of getting.”

Leading 4-3, Tennessee (31-4, 8-2) appeared ready to put LSU away in the seventh behind Renfroe.

The preseason All-SEC pitcher threw four scoreless innings after giving up a three-run homer to A.J. Andrews in the second.

Instead, Andrews lined a one-out single to right,and moved to second when Jacee Blades walked on four pitches. Sahvanna Jaquish followed with a single to right, and Andrews sped home with the tying run.

LSU wasn’t finished. Bell came up next,and launched a 1-0 pitch over the wall in left-center, sparking a celebration that poured out of the LSU dugout.

The hit was redemption for the sophomore shortstop, whose error in the top of the second let two runs score for Tennessee. It was enough to prompt Torina to insert designated player Jaquish at shortstop.

“I was struggling defensively,” Bell said. “I got taken out, and I was thinking ‘don’t worry about it. Just relax and take my aggression out in my at-bats.’ ”

Ashley Czechner (7-8) was the benefactor on the mound and allowed just two hits in the final four innings. She pitched well enough to get out of jams in the second and third innings, but costly two-out errors allowed Tennessee to score twice in each inning

“Errors happen. You just have to know you can battle back from them,” Czechner said. “This team has so much fight, I had confidence in my whole offense that they would come back and get the job done.”

Tennessee used a hit batter, a single and a walk to load the bases with two outs in the second. Rainey Gaffin hit a routine grounder to short that looked like it would get LSU out of the inning unscathed. But there was miscommunication as Bell tried to shovel the ball to Allison Falcon for the force at second.

The ball fell to the ground as Falcon never got a glove on it, and two Volunteers raced home for a 2-0 lead.

Andrews gave LSU a brief 3-2 lead in the bottom of the second. Falcon and Simone Heyward singled, and Andrews followed with a towering shot to right.

Tennessee opened the third with three singles to load the bases, but the Tigers turned a 4-2-3 double play to keep the Vols off the scoreboard. Taylor Koenig then hit a sharp liner to left that Blades couldn’t handle.

It was only Blades’ second error of the season, but it was enough to let two more Vols come home, giving Tennessee a 4-3 lead.

It was a lead that lasted until Bell’s heroics in the seventh.

“How cool that Bianka gets pulled defensively, and has the presence to stay in the game and not pout,” Torina said. “What a great example of what it means to be a part of this program.”