**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**
Jessica Elliott and Taylor Williams were the two seniors honored prior to the opener between South Carolina and No. 18 LSU on Friday night, and both delivered big performances to lead the Gamecocks to a 5-4 win over the Tigers.
Elliott, playing in front of her sister for the first time, started on the mound and delivered six quality innings. She escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third, and gave up just two earned runs on four hits in her six innings to pick up her 15th win of the season.
A four-run fifth inning for the Gamecocks (31-21, 7-14 SEC) proved to be enough offensively, and the senior Taylor Williams had a big sacrifice bunt to set up the flurry of runs.
"Jake Elliott and Taylor Williams, I thought they both showed out for their Senior Day," head coach Beverly Smith said. "It's awesome that we could get the W on this day too."
Elliott struck out two batters in the first and had a seven-pitch second inning to get off to a terrific start. The Tigers (37-16, 11-11 SEC) had runners at the corners with one out and the bases loaded with two outs in the third, but Elliott walked away without allowing a run.
"At that point I want to do my job on the mound," Elliott said. "I just want to give it to my defense and let them take care of it. I had the utmost confidence that they would."
LSU was finally able to cash in against Elliott in the top of the fourth inning, however. A leadoff single and walk put two runners on, and both runners advanced on a passed ball. Amber Serrett then hit a ground ball to Mackenzie Boesel, who went home with the throw, but the tag by catcher Jordyn Augustus just missed, allowing the run to score to make it 1-0.
Emily Griggs ripped a two-run single up the middle to give LSU a 3-0 lead after three and a half innings.
The Gamecocks' comeback started in the bottom of the fourth inning. Tiara Duffy registered a leadoff single and advanced to second on a groundout. She then came home on a RBI single by Alyssa Vanderveer that cut LSU's lead to two runs.
The real fireworks came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Mackenzie Boesel singled up the middle to lead things off. Augustus tried to sacrifice bunt, but she reached first anyway when LSU pitcher Allie Walljasper tried to throw out Boesel at second, but was unsuccessful. Senior Taylor Williams followed with a sac bunt that worked to perfection, putting two runners into scoring position.
Pinch-hitter Shannon Plese ripped a RBI single down the left field line to cut the lead to one run, and Duffy would tie the game up at three with a run-scoring infield single. After a popup, Victoria Williams drilled a double into right-center field, scoring two runs to give South Carolina the 5-3 lead.
Trailing by two entering the inning, the Gamecocks plated four runs to completely turn the game around.
"Once we got that (lead), I knew all we had to do was close the door," Elliott said. "For us, it seems like we're really good at doing those big innings."
Walljasper entered Friday's game having given up just 15 earned runs on the season, and had a 1.01 ERA. She gave up five earned runs to the Gamecocks, more runs than she's given up in any appearance this season.
"Walljasper hasn't given up much, and the fact that we could get those earned runs on her was big," Smith said. "It was a spark, and it just travelled through the team."
Fellow senior Nickie Blue replaced Elliott in the top of the seventh, and quickly found herself in trouble after allowing a single and a walk to lead off the inning. However, Blue was able to get two huge strikeouts for the first two outs. Shemiah Sanchez delivered a RBI single to make it a one-run game, but Blue coaxed a fly ball out of Serrett to pick up her fourth save of the season.
"I couldn't watch, to be honest," Elliott said of the seventh inning. "But she did so great. She does really well under pressure, and obviously it showed.
"When we had the opportunity to close it out in the seventh, I wanted Nickie on the mound," Smith added. "She went in there composed, and in a pressure situation faced the best part of their lineup and got us out of it."
South Carolina has now defeated a Top-25 opponent in four straight weekends, and will look to take the series from the Tigers on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.