LSU's Bianka Bell
Photo by:Martin McCallister, LSU Athletics Student Photographer
Softball Sweeps Day 1 of Purple & Gold Challenge
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Published: February 15, 2013, 10:39 PM (CT)
Updated: February 16, 2013, 08:45 AM (CT)
by Matt Dunaway, Associate SID

BATON ROUGE - The No. 10 LSU softball team racked up 20 hits and Rachele Fico joined the illustrious 600 career strikeout club as the Tigers picked up a pair of wins over North Dakota State (9-0 - 5 Innings) and Virginia (7-2) on day one of the Purple & Gold Challenge Friday at Tiger Park.

LSU (7-1) dented the scoreboard early and often against North Dakota State (2-5), a NCAA Regional and 40-win program from a season ago.

The Tigers struck for a quartet of runs during the first inning. A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades set the table for Allison Falcon's three-run home run on a 2-1 offering onto the left field berm.

Kailey McCasland coaxed a walk, and Tammy Wray smacked a double down the left field line to put runners in scoring position. Two batters later, Lauren Houston laced a RBI single to make it 4-0.

"I like to see them come out like that," head coach Beth Torina said. "That is two weekends in row where we are playing at home and coming out like that. This team is very talented on both sides of the ball. Every day they are making me a believer."

LSU busted the game open with a two-out rally which produced three runs in the third inning. Rikki Alcaraz was hit-by-pitch leading into Katie Guillory's two-run dinger that ricocheted  off the scoreboard in right field to extend the lead to 6-0. It was Guillory's first career long ball. 

"It was a really special moment for her and for me as a coach to see her do that," Torina said. "I think I was cheering as loud as anyone in the stadium for her. I was so excited. She definitely earned it with all the hard work and effort she has put in."

"We train not so much to look at where the ball goes, but to look at the ball on our bat," Guillory said. "Whenever you feel it, you automatically know where it goes without looking. Coaches and teammates kept telling me this day would come. I stayed with it, I believed in it and I bought into it. When it came off the bat, it just felt good."

Andrews kept the pressure on the Bison with a walk. She stole second base and came around to score LSU's seventh run on a Blades RBI single through the middle.

During the fourth inning, LSU added two more runs for the final margin of 9-0. Alcaraz provided a double into the left centerfield gap to plate Sandra Simmons and Houston, who reached base on consecutive out-out singles.

Fico twirled a one-hit shutout and recorded eight shutouts against zero walks to improve to 4-0 on the season. The lone blemish for the senior right-hander was a soft single that didn't leave the infield to leadoff the fourth inning.

The eight strikeouts enabled Fico to etch her name as the sixth hurler in program history to eclipse 600 career Ks. The Connecticut native reached that feat by mowing down the side during the second inning. In the process, Fico moved past former All-American and teammate Brittany Mack for fifth place on the program's all-time list.  

"It's definitely an honor," Fico said. "The people who have worn this jersey and the letters LSU across their chest before me are incredible. They have definitely paved the way for softball and the younger athletes. They have definitely made everything we have here at Tiger Park possible. It's really an honor."

Game 2 - No. 10 LSU 7, Virginia 2

LSU picked up its first comeback win of the season and overcame a 2-1 deficit courtesy of three-run frames during the fourth and fifth innings.

Bianka Bell started the rally with a leadoff single to open the fourth inning. Two batters later, she crossed the plate with the equalizer on a Sandra Simmons RBI double.

After Tammy Wray walked and Kellsi Kloss added an infield single to load the bases, Katie Guillory lifted a bloop RBI single to right centerfield to push the Tigers ahead by a 3-2 margin. LSU tacked on another run on Lauren Houston bases loaded walk to give the Tigers a two-run cushion.

Bell ripped her first career home run, a line drive to the left field berm, on a 2-0 pitch to start the fifth inning and give LSU a 5-2 edge. The Tigers drew four walks and tacked on two more on UVA wild pitches for the final margin of 7-2.

"I was happy to see three freshmen (Bell, Kloss and Simmons) come together for some of the things they did today," Torina said. "They are helping us now, but at the same time they are also showing us that the future is very bright for this group."

Meghan Patterson sat down 14 of the last 15 batters she faced after Virginia scored its two runs in the third inning. The Cavaliers made the most of a leadoff walk, a Heidi Velk single and a LSU error.

Patterson was touched up for two runs, one earned, on two hits. She totaled four strikeouts versus three walks and notched her second win in three decisions for the season.

Jacee Blades turned in a 3-for-3 performance from the second spot in the lineup. The three hits for Blades tied a career-high.

"Meghan is doing a great job, and I am really proud of her," Torina said. "This is something she has put in the time for. She's earned it, and she deserves these types of moments. This isn't something she has lucked her way into. She has worked hard for this, and I think she is doing a great job."

LSU returns to action Saturday versus Virginia at 5 p.m. followed by a 7:30 p.m. tilt with Memphis during day two of the Purple & Gold Challenge.

Every game of the Purple & Gold Challenge will have live stats available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Fans also 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 @lsusoftball on Twitter.

The first three games of the day pit Nicholls State against North Dakota State followed by Nicholls State and Memphis along with North Dakota State and Virginia beginning at 9:30 a.m.

The Tiger Park Ticket Office will open one hour prior to the first game of each day. Fans can purchase tickets on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Season tickets are on-sale for $75 and additional ticket information is available at www.LSUtix.net.

LSU Softball Post Game Quotes - February 15, 2013
No. 10 LSU vs. North Dakota State & Virginia

HEAD COACH BETH TORINA

On another big offensive first inning against North Dakota State...
"It was awesome. I like to see them come out like that. That is two weekends in row where we are playing at home and coming out like that. I'm really comfortable with that part of the lineup too. They are doing some really good things."

On the team's ability to hit home runs ...
"This team is very talented on both sides of the ball. Every day they are making me a believer."

On Katie Guillory's first career home run against North Dakota State...
"It was awesome. It was a really special moment for her and me as a coach to see her do that. I think I was cheering as loud as anyone in the stadium for her. I was so excited. She definitely earned it with all the hard work and effort she has put in. It was a special moment for her and for our program."

On Meghan Patterson's performance versus Virginia...
"She is doing a great job. I am really proud of her. She is the same thing as Katie Guillory.  She has worked hard for the opportunities she has gotten. This is something she has put in the time for. She's earned it, and she deserves these types of moments. This isn't something she has lucked her way into. She has worked hard for this, and I think she is doing a great job."

On Rachele Fico's 600th career strikeout and her outing today...
"She's just fantastic. She's not just that great pitcher and talented pitcher, she is that good of a competitor too. When you put all of it together, you have something really special. Anytime she is on the mound, we have a chance against anyone in the country. I'm proud of everything she is doing. I'm proud that I got to be apart of her 600th strikeout. Hopefully, we will get to see a lot more this season.

On Bianka Bell's homer against Virginia...
"That was unbelievable, that kid can really hit. I was happy to see three freshmen come together for some of the things they did today. Her, Simmons, and Kloss are all doing some good things. They are helping us now, but at the same time they are also showing us that the future is very bright for this group.

On tomorrow's games with Memphis and Virginia ...
"Everyone in this tournament are quality programs, they have all done some good things in recent years. We have to show up and not look past anyone. We have to show up and play our game. There are definitely some things that we need to clean up and do a better job with. Hopefully, we'll do that tomorrow and continue to get better tomorrow."

OUTFIELDER KATIE GUILLORY

On her home run against North Dakota State ...
"We train not so much to look at where the ball goes, but to look at the ball on our bat. Whenever you feel it, you automatically know where it goes without looking. Coaches and teammates kept telling me this day would come. I stayed with it, I believed in it and I bought into it. When it came off the bat, it just felt good. When I looked up and saw it way over the fence, I told myself to run as fast as I could."

On the feeling of satisfaction after battling injuries throughout her career...
"Man, it's just breathtaking. I have been struggling with my knee.  Today's cold weather and my knee just didn't get along. The trainer and I have been trying to do some things to help it feel better. Tonight, I didn't even know if I would get to play. Then I came out tonight on fire and ready to go. It is just an unbelievable feeling. I told Coach (Torina) at the end that I was sorry for throwing my helmet. I was so excited. I waited 22 years for this moment. It is just remarkable."

On the team's offense ...
"Now that our returners are two years into this offensive system, we are starting not only to understand what we are doing but understanding how the coaches think. It helps us think better too. In practice, we spend everyday working on situations and doing our jobs. With a runner on third, we practice hitting it deep in the outfield so we score that runner. We are not necessarily going for hits after hits after hits. Primarily, it's doing our jobs to score and get RBIs.  We have been doing a very good job of that, and I think it's showing."

On her go-ahead RBI in the Virginia game ...
"It was a pretty good day. I can look back on this day when I am struggling and remember that good times will come."

PITCHER RACHELE FICO

On Katie Guillory's home run ...
"It was awesome. She has worked so hard and has been through so much. To see her make this comeback on her senior year, it is just awesome. She absolutely crushed that ball and got all of it. I am so proud of her. I am happy to see her swinging the bat like that."

On getting run support early in games ...
"It relaxes you as a pitcher when your offense is producing so many runs and swinging the bat the way they are. They are on fire right now. They are definitely taking great hacks. They definitely deserve all the success they have been having. I think they will continue to have it."

On her 600th career strikeout ...
"It's definitely an honor. The people who have worn this jersey and the letters LSU across their chest before me are incredible. They have definitely paved the way for softball and the younger athletes. They have definitely made everything we have here at Tiger Park possible. It's really an honor."

 

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