FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The No. 13 LSU softball team was unable to hold a three-run lead as Arkansas rallied for a 4-3 win to even the weekend series at a game apiece as 1,016 fans gathered Saturday at Bogle Park.
In the process, LSU (32-8, 8-3 SEC) had its 12-game winning streak over the Razorbacks (26-14, 4-8 SEC) dating back to the 2009 season come to a close. The Tigers still maintain a two-game advantage in the loss column over Alabama for first place in the SEC Western Division standings.
Bianka Bell turned in a 2-for-3 performance with two runs scored and two RBIs. She blasted her team-leading ninth home run on the season and has collected a RBI in seven straight games.
“Arkansas did a good job of putting the ball in play hard when they needed to,” head coach Beth Torina said. “They built momentum throughout the game, and we couldn’t get it back after we took the 3-0 lead. If the ball bounces two inches differently, there’s no doubt that we win the ballgame. Ultimately, I think the result of this game is our offense not having very quality at-bats.”
The Razorbacks rallied for two runs in the seventh inning to claim the 4-3 walkoff win. Jayme Gee smacked a one-out double into the right centerfield gap which prompted the Tigers to turn to Rachele Fico out of the bullpen.
Fico forced Claire Clark into a popup for the frame’s second out. LSU elected to intentionally walk Devon Wallace, the reigning SEC Player of the Week. On a 1-1 offering, Stephanie Canfield knocked a RBI single off the glove of a fully extended Sandra Simmons at first base. The ball squirted into right field where Simone Heyward’s errant throw enabled Wallace to score the game-winning run. The Tigers had a play on Wallace at the plate, but her slide dislodged the ball out of the glove of catcher Lauren Houston.
Arkansas rode Kimmy Beasley’s complete game performance in the circle. The sophomore southpaw registered a career-best 12 strikeouts versus two walks. She held LSU’s offense to a season-low two hits and retired 13 of her last 14 batters she faced.
“Beasley threw a good game, and she gets a lot of credit,” Torina said. “We didn’t know what to expect from her. Our offense didn’t make any adjustments and weren’t very discipline by chasing pitches all over the place.”
The Tigers grabbed a 2-0 advantage and took advantage of two Arkansas errors. Jacee Blades reached second base on a dropped fly ball with one out and came around to score on Bell’s RBI single through the middle. The ball deflected off the glove of the Razorbacks shortstop and scooted to the wall past a diving fielding attempt by the centerfielder which allowed Bell to scamper around the bases for the game’s second run.
Bell extended the LSU lead to 3-0 and connected for a towering solo shot with two out in the third inning.
The Razorbacks responded with a longball of their own during the home half of the frame, a Gee solo homer to left field, which snapped a run of seven straight batters retired by LSU starting pitcher Ashley Czechner.
Arkansas manufactured another run in the fourth inning. Chloe Oprzedek was plunked to start the frame. Two batters later, she advanced to third base on Clarissa Navarro’s double. Sierra Bronkey added a sacrifice fly to plate Oprzedek and make the tally 3-2.
Czechner wiggled her way out of trouble during the fifth inning. The Razorbacks placed a pair of runners on-base with one out, but Czechner induced consecutive popups to keep LSU ahead by a 3-2 margin. She earned a no-decision and was touched up for three runs on four hits. The junior right-hander totaled four strikeouts against two walks.
“We need to make sure we show up tomorrow and win the series,” Torina said. “That’s the key to being successful in this league. One of our goals this season is to win every SEC series. We understand that we aren’t going to win every SEC game even though we want to. Ultimately, we have to win every series if we want to reach our goals.”
The rubber game and series finale is on-tap for Sunday at 1 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge. The radio broadcast also can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway on the call.
Fans can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live stats at www.LSUsports.net/livestats along with live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsusoftball on Twitter.
LSU’s next home series will be April 19-21 when Missouri makes its first SEC trip to Tiger Park. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net or on-site at the Tiger Park Ticket Office starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Friday’s series opener is the program’s “Pack the Park” game with $1 general admission tickets, while Saturday’s contest marks the team’s second annual “Strikeout Ovarian Cancer” event.