COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Rachele Fico fired her second straight two-hit shutout in as many days, and the LSU softball team claimed a 2-0 win over No. 8 national seed Texas A&M during Saturday's winner's bracket contest of the NCAA College Station Regional at the Aggie Softball Complex.
LSU (36-22) scored both of its runs in the first inning and received a few spectacular defensive plays from A.J. Andrews and Ashley Langoni from their right and left field posts, respectively. Offensively, Allison Falcon led the way with a 2-for-3 performance and a RBI.
The Tigers will again face the Aggies in the final, as Texas A&M emerged from the loser's bracket. Sunday's regional championship game is slated for 1 p.m. which will be carried live on ESPN3.com with Cara Capuano and Cheri Kempf serving as the announcing team.
"I'm so proud of our players for executing the game plan and following up on their momentum from yesterday's win," head coach Beth Torina said. "We came out attacking, we came out aggressive. I loved the way our offense swung the bats today. A lot of our players had quality at-bats throughout, and I think the credit goes to them for being that aggressive."
A.J. Andrews, Simone Heyward and Juliana Santos set the table for LSU in the first inning. Andrews slapped a single down the left field line, while Heyward and Santos reached on a walk and hit batter to fill the bases.
Allison Falcon followed up with a timely RBI single to left field on a 0-1 pitch to plate Andrews. A throwing error by Texas A&M left fielder Emily Albus allowed Heyward to cross the plate and push the LSU advantage to 2-0.
"We definitely carried over the momentum from the seventh inning against Texas State," Falcon said. "The transition was pretty smooth. Coach Torina told us to stick within our plans, to be confident and not be afraid. We had nothing to lose really."
Fico stranded a trio of Texas A&M runners in scoring position during the first three innings. The Aggies were unable to put a runner past first base the rest of the way as the junior right-hander completed her 13th shutout of the season.
Fico worked around a career-high six walks, but also added six pivotal strikeouts to improve to 18-11 on the season. It marked only the fourth time on the season that A&M (40-17) failed to score.
With a runner on first base and two outs during the fifth inning, Texas A&M's All-America catcher Meagan May lifted a shallow fly ball to left field. Langoni sprinted in and made a fully extended, diving snag to end the frame.
Fico navigated past leadoff walks in the sixth and seventh inning with six fly ball outs highlighted by a running catch by Andrews on the right field warning track during the sixth to wrap up the 2-0 triumph.
"We had a good mix of pitches today," Fico said. "We were working all four quadrants of the strike zone. I walked too many batters, but we were able to work around it. My defense came up big making plays when we needed to. Other than that, we had better break points on the ball today. That is what made us really effective."
Texas A&M's All-America hurler Mel Dumezich was tagged with the loss and dropped to 28-12 for the season. She surrendered two runs on five hits and tallied six strikeouts versus three walks.
Every LSU postseason game will have live audio and live stats available inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. The games also will be carried live on Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway set to call the action.
Fans can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsu_softball on Twitter.
NCAA College Station Regional - All Games Live on ESPN3.com
Friday, May 18
Game 1: LSU def. Texas State, 1-0
Game 2: No. 8 Texas A&M def. Bethune-Cookman, 11-0 (5)
Saturday, May 19
Game 3: LSU def. Texas A&M, 2-0
Game 4: Texas State def. Bethune-Cookman, 5-3
Game 5: Texas A&M def. Texas State, 7-4
Sunday, May 20 - Gates open at 12 p.m.
Game 6: LSU vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7: Rematch if necessary, 4 p.m.
Softball Postgame Quotes - May 19, 2012
LSU vs. Texas A&M - NCAA College Station Regional
Head Coach Beth Torina
Opening Statement ...
"I was excited about the way our team came out today. We carried some of the momentum from the seventh inning of the Texas State game into today. We did exactly what we planned. We attacked early in the count and pitched the way we had talked about. We handled their offense exactly the way we talked about. They have only been shut out three times going into today's game so a lot of credit goes to Rachele Fico. She did a great job, and I was really proud of our offense."
On her gameplan moving forward...
"We are in a really good spot. We are getting out of the heat and are able to rest. We will have a good meal tonight and be ready tomorrow. I like our options with our pitching staff. We have two solid pitchers that I'm confident in. Without question that helps us down the road in this tournament. Knowing that whoever we face are going to have to beat two very different, very tough pitchers. That definitely works in our favor."
On not building on their lead...
"There were a couple innings where we didn't have quality at-bats. For the most part, I thought we kept attacking and [Mel Dumezich] made some good adjustments on the mound to keep us off balance. She is talented, and she gets credit for making those adjustments. We continued to stay aggressive; we had runners on the bases all day. If we can continue to do that, we will be successful. I feel confident when we give this pitching staff a lead to work with."
On Brittany Mack being ready to pitch...
"Both pitchers are always warm. Whichever one is on the mound, the other is in relief. They are always ready for anything. I think [Brittany] was even ready in the first inning. Usually they are ready just in case something happens. I haven't had to make many tough decisions on pulling pitchers this year. They have really spoiled me because they are so talented. Whoever we give the ball to, I am really confident in."
Junior Pitcher Rachele Fico
On her performance ...
"We had a good mix of pitches today. We were working all four quadrants of the strike zone. I walked too many batters, but we were able to work around it. My defense came up big making plays when we needed to. Other than that, we had better break points on the ball today. That is what made us really effective."
On her gameplan for facing A&M's lineup
"My plan is always to stay within myself and work with my strengths. I just take it one pitch at a time and try to make my next pitch my best pitch."
Sophomore Second Baseman Allison Falcon
On scoring in the first inning...
"We definitely carried over the momentum from the seventh inning against Texas State. The transition was pretty smooth. Coach Torina told us to stick within our plans, to be confident and not be afraid. We had nothing to lose really."
NCAA Softball Regional Updates
All Times Central and subject to change
Super Regional pairings are grouped together
* team must win twice to advance to Super Regional
Arkansas vs. (1) California *, 7 p.m.
(16) washington vs. Harvard *, 3 p.m.
(9) Missouri vs. Illinois St.*, 2 p.m.
College Station Regional
LSU vs. (8) Texas A&M *, 1 p.m.
USF vs. (5) Florida *, noon
Los Angeles Regional
Hofstra vs. San Diego St. *, 2 p.m.
(13) Arizona vs. Notre Dame *, 4:30 p.m.
(4) Oklahoma vs. Oregon St. *, 1 p.m.
(3) Arizona St. vs. Syracuse *, 5 p.m.
(14) UL-Lafayette vs. Stanford *, 1 p.m.
(11) Oregon def. BYU, 4-1 (Oregon advanced to Super Regional)
Northwestern vs. (6) Texas *, noon
Virginia Tech vs. (7) Tennessee *, 12:30 p.m.
(10) Georgia vs. North Carolina *, 11 a.m.
Michigan vs. (15) Louisville *, noon
(2) Alabama vs. South Alabama, 1 p.m.