PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Down to its final three outs and trailing No. 13 Stanford 3-2 in its final game of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic, the No. 23 LSU softball team rallied to score three runs in the top of the seventh inning on three hits to score a combined four unanswered runs in the sixth and final inning to hold on and defeat the Cardinal 5-3 Saturday afternoon.
After taking an early 1-0 lead over the Cardinal (13-2), the Tigers (12-5) watched as the Pac 12 school scored a run in the very next inning to tie and then get two more in the fifth to put LSU on the ropes with two turns at bat left. Instead, LSU sparked to life in the sixth with Allison Falcon’s fourth home run of the season to pull the Tigers within one, before consecutive hits by Simone Heyward, A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades jumpstarted the LSU rally in the seventh to break through the Stanford wall to earn the win.
“It’s nice to know we have the capability to not only do all of the little things right, but fight and have some guts and come back on a team late in a game,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I think that is a key thing to our season and will carry us a long way.”
The Tigers outhit the Cardinal 10-7, and had multiple chances throughout the game to plate runs leaving nine on base to Stanford’s four. All ten hits came from only four LSU players, led by Andrews and Blades who each went 3-for-4 with an RBI for Blades and a run scored by each. Falcon and Heyward had two each, as Falcon drove in two RBI, as Heyward scored once.
“This was a statement weekend for us,” Torina said. “It’s going to give our team a whole lot of confidence, and hopefully it’s going to turn some heads with what we’re capable of doing, but in the long run our kids are going to benefit from the success they had out here.”
Earning her fourth win of the tournament and sixth of the season, Baylee Corbello went the distance and allowed three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks with 108 pitches thrown. Corbello only gave up consecutive hits once in the game, that coming in the two-run fifth for Stanford, as she closed the game by retiring the last six batters in order.
With no outs in the second, Kellsi Kloss got on base after batting one back to the pitcher, but on the subsequent throw launched it over the head of the first baseman allowing her to reach second. After a groundout by Sahvanna Jaquish to advance to third, Falcon hit a deep fly to left to score and give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
LSU came back in the third and got singles from Heyward and Andrews to put two on with no outs. Heyward got caught trying to steal third base as Andrews advanced to second for the first out. A groundout by Blades gave the Tigers two outs, but Sandra Simmons walked to put two back on before a swinging strikeout ended the inning.
Stanford tied the game with one swing of the bat, getting a solo home run in the first at bat in their half of the third inning to tie the game at 1 apiece. The Cardinal returned in the fourth and used a walk and bunt single to put two on, with a fielder’s choice advancing the runners to second and third. Fortunately, a grounder to the circle and another to Wray ended the inning.
After seeing Stanford produce and threaten for two straight innings, Andrews doubled down the left field line with out on the board in the fifth. Blades followed that up with a slap single to first to put runners at the corners. Simmons hit a chopper to third and reached on the fielder’s choice to advance Blades as Andrews got put out at home for the second out. Looking to score, a grounder back to the pitcher ended the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the fifth, an infield single put one on with a wild pitch advancing the runner to second. Stanford connected with an RBI double to give the Cardinal a 2-1 advantage. After a grounder to Bianka Bell at short for the second out, an infield single plated another run to give Stanford a 3-1 lead, with the runner getting caught trying to steal second to end the inning.
With two outs, Falcon went to double-digit pitches in her at-bat and then unloaded on a pitch, sending it over the fence in left to make it 3-2 for the only run of the inning for LSU.
Down to their final outs, Heyward led off with a single through the left side, as Andrews reached with a bunt single as Heyward moved to second and then third to put runners at the corners. Blades followed that up with another single as Heyward beat the tag in to tie the game at 3-3. A walk to Simmons and Bell brought in another run to give LSU the lead back at 4-3. Jaquish took one in the back to score another to make it 5-3, as Falcon and Tammy Wray each flew out to end the inning.
“We’re still improving, and that’s the best part about this team,” Torina said. “I can honestly say we’re getting better every time we take the field. I think we started a little bit slower than what we wanted, but we are truly getting better and if we can keep that up through the end of the season then we will be in a good position going forward.
The Tigers will be back in action next weekend, hosting their final tournament of the season in the Purple and Gold Challenge at Tiger Park Feb. 28-March 2.