PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Heading to California, the No. 23 LSU Tiger softball team was hoping to get a signature win with three ranked opponents on the docket for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic that began on Thursday. LSU didn’t even wait a day as the Tigers scored six runs on 10 hits to defeat No. 3-ranked Washington 6-3 in Palm Springs.
Coming into the game with zero wins against ranked opponents, LSU (10-4) pieced together one of its strongest games of the season as a whole to topple the previously unbeaten Huskies (11-1), giving the Tigers a win over a team ranked in the top five since sweeping Alabama to end last season who was ranked fourth.
“It was a great day overall for our program,” head coach Beth Torina said “It was a big win tonight and I like to see our offense swing the way they did today. It was really exciting to see them perform that way.”
With power and speed matched up against the pitching and small-ball approach, LSU’s power won the day as the Tigers got three home runs on the night and a double among its 10 hits as eight different LSU batters earned a hit, including the top five batters who all garnered at least one against Washington.
For the third time this season, and 21st time in team history, Tiger teammates went back-to-back with home runs, as Allison Falcon and Tammy Wray both blasted shots over the fence to help the LSU charge, as Wray finished the night 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored. Jacee Blades was the only other player with two hits, going 2-for-4, while Kellsi Kloss hit her second home run of the day against Washington, finishing the night driving in two and scoring once.
“It was nice to see them be so balanced today,” Torina said. “At one point we had three bunt singles in a row, then we hit for power with back-to-back homeruns at another point, so I think we were able to score so many runs because we were so balanced.”
Senior Ashley Czechner went the distance and allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits with five walks and five strikeouts, outdueling All-American Kaitlin Inglesby who gave up all six runs, five earned, in seven innings with just three strikeouts. Coming into the game, Inglesby had given up just one run total in 21 previous innings of work.
“Czechner went out and threw a great game,” Torina said. “She made great pitches all night, and a lot of smart pitches as well. She got a huge win for us.”
After two scoreless innings, LSU got a Wray single through the left side to jump start the third, with Alex Boulet coming on to pinch run for the third baseman. Consecutive bunts by Landry and Andrews loaded the bases with no outs on the board. After a swinging strikeout by Blades gave the Tigers their first out, it mattered little as Simmons laced a hard chopper through the infield to score two, putting LSU on top 2-0. After Bell got on with an error to re-load the bases, a fielder’s choice forced Andrews out at home, but on the double play throw out attempt, Simmons scored to make it 3-0.
After a double to center, Washington got an RBI single from Victoria Heyward to make it 3-1, advancing all the way to third after a pair of errors by LSU. A walk put runners at the corners, as a sacrifice fly scored another run cutting the LSU lead to just one run at 3-2 Tigers.
With the offense starting to run for both teams, the Tigers went off in the fourth as Falcon took the first pitch she saw to dead center to give LSU a 4-2 lead. Not to be outdone, Wray waited until the fifth pitch to strike, but got the same result as she drilled one to right to put LSU up 5-2.
With two outs and seemingly headed to the bottom of the fifth without scoring, Kloss dug in and took a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence to give LSU a 6-2 lead for the third home run of the game for LSU.
Washington came back and led off their inning with a bloop single to short center, with a walk to put two on. Bell made a great play at short to get a tough out at first base, with the runners advancing to second and third. Fortunately, the next batter struck out swinging and the last flying out to Blades in left to keep the Huskies off the board.
Although the Huskies would plate a run in the seventh, it came with two outs as a fly out to Blades in left field ended the game, giving LSU the win.
Game 1: No 23 LSU 13, Long Beach State 0 (5 innings)
The No. 23 LSU softball team opened the 2014 Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs by taking a four-run lead and exploding for a nine-run fifth inning getting four RBI from Kellsi Kloss in the frame to cruise to the tournament-opening, 13-0 win over the Long Beach State 49’ers in five innings.
The Tigers (9-4) produced a staggering 12 hits in the ballgame, getting six in the fifth to go ahead for good and keep it that way, as LBSU (6-5) used five pitchers who combined to strike out one Tiger batter and walk eight. It’s the third time in the last three games that LSU has accumulated at least 12 hits in a contest.
Nine Tigers produced at least one hit in the game, led by Kloss who went 2-for-4 with all four RBI coming in the top of the fifth inning with a double and home run. Bianka Bell continued her power surge as she went 2-for-2 with an RBI and three runs scored, hitting another home run for the second time in three games. The last two hit night went to A.J. Andrews who went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a stolen base.
Sahvanna Jaquish drove in three with just one hit against Long Beach State, while Kailey McCasland came on in the fifth and drove in a run on her only hit of the night. Jacee Blades, Sandra Simmons, Baylee Corbello and Bailey Landry had the other hits for LSU on the night.
Corbello earned her third complete-game shutout of the season, holding the 49’ers to just two hits with a walk and six strikeouts in another dominating performance in the circle. The freshman moved to 4-2 on the season, needing just 77 pitches to work through the Long Beach State lineup in the game.
“Baylee was solid as she has been all year for us,” head coach Beth Torina said. “It was an improved performance as she limited her walks and had one hit by pitch and continues to improve.”
LSU would not waste its first turn at-bat to open the game against Long Beach State, taking a 2-0 lead before heading into the field. A single by Blades with one out was the first hit for the Tigers on the day, with Simmons getting a hit to left center field to push the left fielder to third and her advancing to second on the throw in. Jaquish flew out to right field scoring Blades to put LSU up 1-0 with Simmons advancing to third. She scored on the next play after a wild pitch to put the Tigers up 2-0 for the last run of the inning.
With one out, Bell crushed the first pitch thrown in her at bat and easily cleared the make-shirt fence out in left field to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the only run for the squad in that inning.
Andrews put LSU up four in the fourth, as she capped the second consecutive scoring inning for the Tigers with an RBI single up the middle to score Bailey Landry who got on after a fielder’s choice and then stole second base to get into scoring position.
For the first time, the 49’ers actually put together a legitimate scoring threat in the bottom half of the fourth inning, as a walk and single to left put two on with just one out. Although it looked like Long Beach State was starting to put something together, a pop up to Simmons for the second out and Corbello’s fourth strikeout of the game ended the threat and the inning.
LSU exploded for nine runs and six hits in the top of the fifth inning, leading to two different pitching changes for the 49’ers in the frame alone, as the big bat came from Kloss who had four RBI in the inning alone as she had an RBI double and then capped it with a three-run home run as LSU went up 13-0 over Long Beach State.
“I think it’s an unbelievable start, and it really sets the tone for us for the rest of the weekend,” Torina said. “Hopefully we can continue this momentum and roll it and make it a fantastic weekend overall.”