No. 11 Softball Drops 2-0 Decision to No. 16 UCLA
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The No. 11 LSU softball team had its 10-game winning streak come to a close and was handed a 2-0 defeat by No. 16 UCLA Sunday on the final day of the Mary Nutter Classic held at the Big League Dreams Complex.
The Tigers (14-2) were shutout for the first time on the season despite holding a 7-3 advantage over UCLA (12-1) in the hits department. From the bottom of the order, Rikki Alcaraz and Simone Heyward turned in 2-for-3 performances.
The 10-game winning streak for LSU was the second-longest in the Beth Torina era after the Tigers pieced together a 12-game run from March 16-April 4 last season.
Rachele Fico was dealt the tough-luck loss and dropped to 9-1 on the season. Pitching for the fourth consecutive day, Fico limited the high-octane Bruins to a pair of runs on three hits. The senior right-hander totaled nine strikeouts, four walks and two hit batters.
"They were able to get a couple of breaks, and we didn't throughout the game," Torina said. "For the most part, Rachele was able to get them off balanced. I think it showed that we threw her four days in a row. She was still able to strike out nine batters and is going to be the one in the circle we're going to count in throughout the season."
UCLA put two runners on to start the second inning as Alyssa Tiumalu was hit-by-a-pitch, and Mysha Sataraka doubled down the left field line. On a 2-0 offering, Brittany Moeai platted both runners on a slow-rolling RBI single that squibbed past Fico's glove and deflected over a diving Bianka Bell at shortstop.
"UCLA made the most of their opportunities," Fico said. "You can't take anything away from them. They are a great program. We're definitely going to learn from this experience and know what we have to work on in practice to continue to get better. "
LSU was unable to cash in on four separate scoring opportunities with at least one runner in scoring position. Heyward and Bell were stranded on second base during the third and fourth innings, respectively, after providing leadoff hits.
The Tigers had the tying runners aboard in the fifth inning as Alcaraz and A.J. Andrews set the table with singles. Jacee Blades lifted a fly ball to shallow centerfield, but UCLA's Allexis Bennent sprawled out for a diving catch. A passed ball enabled both LSU runners to move up into scoring position before Allison Falcon grounded out to end the frame.
"Their centerfielder played great and made a couple of diving catches that changed the ballgame," Torina said. "Credit UCLA for playing solid defense and for making big pitches when they counted."
LSU put together one final rally attempt during the seventh. Alcaraz and Heyward smacked consecutive out-out singles through the middle. An Andrews ground ball to the right side advanced the tying runs into scoring position. However, pinch hitter Dylan Supak lined out to first base for the game's final out.
UCLA's Paige McDuffee went the distance and was touched up for seven hits. She stranded six of LSU's eight baserunners in scoring position. She picked up two strikeouts versus zero walks and has won all of four decisions on the season.
"I think we need to do a better job of manufacturing runs," Torina said. "I didn't think we moved our runners over when the opportunities presented themselves, and we didn't make the most of the hits that we did get. Rikki and Simone had some great moments for us this weekend, but we couldn't get that timely hit to score runs today."
LSU continues its 13-game road swing and wraps up non-conference tournament play next weekend at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic held in Orlando, Fla. where the Tigers will meet No. 9 Oregon, No. 15 Michigan, No. 18 Syracuse, Penn State and Syracuse.
"It's definitely a grind, and we have to put our work in this week at practice to be prepared," Torina said. "There's no doubt we have our work cut out for us next weekend and face five solid programs. We just have to grind it out game-by-game, and as coaches try to get them prepared as much as we can."
Every LSU softball game will have live stats available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsusoftball on Twitter.
LSU's next home game will be Wednesday, March 13 versus Nicholls State with a 6 p.m. first pitch. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net or on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Season tickets also are on-sale for $75 and additional ticket information is available at www.LSUtix.net.