LSU's senior class celebrates the sweep of the Crimson Tide
Photo by:Chris Parent, LSU Athletics Student Photographer
Sweep Complete: No. 12 Softball Tops No. 4 Alabama
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Published: April 27, 2013, 05:14 PM (CT)
Updated: April 27, 2013, 06:20 PM (CT)
by Matt Dunaway, Associate SID

BATON ROUGE – The No. 12 LSU softball team erased three separate deficits and completed a series sweep with a dramatic 4-3 Senior Day triumph over No. 4 Alabama to clinch a share of the SEC Western Division title Saturday as another program-record crowd of 3,231 fans packed Tiger Park.

“Our seniors have definitely left their mark, and a lot of credit goes them,” head coach Beth Torina said. “They continued to raise the bar and raise the level for this program. Honestly, it’s not about Alabama at all for me. It is about these Tiger fans, and this team being able to be in the spot they are in the toughest conference in the nation. We have the best fans in the country. They came out today and supported us. They changed the game multiple times in multiple ways. They were unbelievable all weekend.”

With the victory, LSU (40-11, 15-6 SEC) secured its 12th 40-win regular season in program history and opened up a three-game lead over the Crimson Tide (40-10, 12-9 SEC) heading into the season’s final week. The Tigers have won eight straight home decisions over Alabama dating back to the 2008 season.

After the game, LSU paid tribute to Rachele Fico, Lauren Houston, Katie Guillory and student manager Lindsay Price as part of Senior Day festivities.

“This day was so special,” Fico said. “I’m just so proud to be a Tiger. In my heart, I know this is the right place for me, and I’m so glad I made the decision I did. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I absolutely would come to LSU without a doubt. I bleed Purple and Gold now. I never really understood what this place is all about until I got down here. LSU sucks you up, and it turns you into a Tiger for life. I understand now. I get it now. I get why this place is so special. There’s no place like it on Earth. I’m so proud to be a Tiger.”

With LSU trailing by a 3-2 margin during the bottom of the fifth inning, Guillory ignited the Tigers by legging out an infield single deep into the hole at second base with two outs. A throwing error enabled Guillory to scamper into second base.

A.J. Andrews kept the two-out rally alive and ripped a 1-1 offering through the middle to plate pinch runner Simone Heyward with the game-tying run. A throwing error by Alabama centerfielder Haylie McCleney allowed Andrews to scoot all the way to third base.

Jacee Blades took the first pitch of the next at-bat and deposited a RBI single on a chopper to shortstop to vault LSU to a 4-3 lead.

“It was so cool that Katie Guillory was able to get that hit for us,” Torina said. “She is one of our super seniors being her fifth year. She has worked so hard to be in the lineup. She really fought her way during that last at-bat. She really started the offense there. It was a motivating factor for our team to see her do that.”

Alabama attempted a comeback of its own in the sixth inning. After a Danielle Richard leadoff single, Tammy Wray used her quick release from her third base post and erased Richard on a fielder’s choice ground ball. The Crimson Tide got another single to right field courtesy of Jadyn Spencer, but Simone Heyward fired a one-hop bullet to Wray to gun down Ryan Iamurri for the second out of the frame. 

“When I went into right field, I knew the game was on the line,” Heyward said. “It was the sixth inning. I know that we needed to make a great play somewhere defensively. The last time a ball came to me like that it tailed off, and I couldn’t get a hold on it. This time I was like, ‘I’ve got to get it. I’ve got to get her out.’ I knew I was going to throw to third base, and I just wanted to come up big for my team. I wanted to be the one to make a big play.”

Rachele Fico retired the final four Alabama batters she faced to wrap up the 4-3 win. She fanned McCleney for the game’s final out, who was previously 2-for-2 with two RBIs, in the contest.

“That inning was huge for us,” Fico said. “We knew that we had the speed of their lineup coming up. They’re absolutely so dangerous when they get on-base and make things happen. So, we knew that we were going to play really good defense. They put the ball in play. We were able to make good plays, and we were able to end it on a strikeout which is so awesome. That team is so talented. I have so much respect for the Alabama softball program. To be able to clinch the SEC West on this day is just such a special thing to me. It’s something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

Fico sprayed eight hits and allowed three runs, two earned, to improve her record to 24-9 for the season. The senior right-hander added four strikeouts versus one walk and moved one strikeout away from matching fellow All-American Emily Turner for third place on LSU’s all-time list.

“I’ll tell you what, Alabama has some great hitters in that lineup,” Torina said. “Kayla Braud is a fantastic player and was tough on us all weekend long. It was great to see Rachele Fico step up and get those last three tough outs in the seventh inning. She had a great performance today.”

Alabama dented the scoreboard first and capitalized on a LSU fielding error to grab a 1-0 advantage in the opening frame. Richard squirted a two-out, RBI single through the left side to score McCleney for the game’s first run.

The Tigers wasted no time and responded with a run during the home half of the inning. LSU manufactured the equalizer started by an Andrews leadoff single to left field. She advanced to second base on Blades’ sacrifice bunt and touched the plate on Bianka Bell’s RBI single down the left field line.

Alabama regained a 2-1 edge in the third inning. The Crimson Tide pieced together consecutive doubles with no outs, one to shallow left field by Kayla Braud followed by a McCleney two-bagger that bounced off the right field fence.

LSU knotted the score at 2-2 during the fifth inning. With two outs, Sandra Simmons ripped a solo home run, her fourth dinger of the season, to right field. 

The Crimson Tide snatched back a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning. Braud knocked a one-out double to left field, moved up to third base on a wild pitch and raced home on McCleney’s sacrifice fly to centerfield. 

Alabama’s Jackie Traina was dealt the loss and fell to 17-6 on the season. She surrendered four runs, two earned, on six hits. She picked up four strikeouts versus zero walks.

“It is definitely a great day,” Heyward said. “As a team, I thought we took it one game at a time. It was for the SEC West. It was for pride. It was a great series, just everything. Today, just knowing that we could finally sweep a series at home for the first time since Kentucky, I just think that was a great win for the team. It was a whole team effort. Everybody in the lineup, everybody on defense all contributed to this.”

LSU wraps up the home portion of its regular season schedule and takes on Northwestern State for the only meeting between the two teams during the 2013 season. Tuesday’s first pitch is on-tap for 6 p.m., and the game will broadcast live by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge. Live video and the radio broadcast can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribes at www.LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright and Kent Lowe will have the radio 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.

The Tiger Park Ticket Office will open 90 prior to the first pitch. Fans can purchase tickets on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12.

LSU Softball Postgame Quotes – April 27, 2013
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 4 Alabama

HEAD COACH BETH TORINA

On LSU’s two-run fifth inning …
“It was so cool that Katie Guillory was able to get that hit for us. She is one of our super seniors being her fifth year. She has worked so hard to be in the lineup. She really fought her way during that at-bat. She really started the offense there. It was a motivating factor for our team to see her do that. The seniors were spectacular, the entire team was spectacular and the Tiger fans were spectacular all weekend long. It is a special day and a special moment for this program.”

On senior day and the seniors…
“They definitely left their mark. A lot of credit goes to that senior class. They continued to raise the bar and raise the level for this program.”

On the series sweep …
“I’ll tell you what, Alabama has some great hitters in that lineup. Kayla Braud is a fantastic player and was tough on us all weekend long. It was great to see Rachele Fico step up and get those last three tough outs in the seventh inning. She had a great performance today.”

On LSU’s defense …
“We had so many great defensive plays today. Jacee Blades diving over the fence to catch a foul ball. The play (in the sixth inning) right before the out where they threw the ball to get the lead-out at second, Tammy Wray has such a quick release and unbelievable range. Then Simone’s amazing throw, and the ball landing in Tammy’s glove to get the out at third. It was just meant to be today. They played so hard. When you play hard, sometimes you get the breaks. That is what happened to us today.”

On the emotional victory and sweeping Alabama…
“Honestly, it’s not about Alabama at all for me. It is about these Tiger fans, and this team being able to be in the spot they are in the toughest conference in the nation. They lead the SEC West. We have the best fans in the country. They came out today and supported us. They changed the game multiple times in multiple ways. They were unbelievable all weekend.”

On facing Northwestern State Tuesday…
“Honestly, we just keep playing hard. I don’t think we take anything lightly. We don’t treat games differently. We just keep playing hard every time we take the field.”

RF SIMONE HEYWARD

On sweeping the series against Alabama …
“It is definitely a great day. First of all, I was thrown off by starting the series on Thursday. As a team, I thought we took it one game at a time. It was for the SEC West. It was for pride. It was a great series, just everything. Today, just knowing that we could finally sweep a series at home for the first time since Kentucky, I just think that was a great win for the team. It was a whole team effort. Everybody in the lineup, everybody on defense all contributed to this.”

On Katie Guillory’s hit to spark the team with two outs …
Katie Guillory is just a phenomenal person. We would not have won that game without her honestly. She came up big for us and got that hit with two outs. It’s hard to get infield hits, especially against Alabama. I mean, they’re a great team. Without her doing that, I think our momentum would have been a little bit more down. I think she really helped us out a lot.”

On her crucial assist from the outfield in the sixth inning …
“When I went into right field, I knew the game was on the line. It was the sixth inning. I know that we needed to make a great play somewhere defensively. The last time a ball came to me like that it tailed off, and I couldn’t get a hold on it. This time I was like, ‘I’ve got to get it. I’ve got to get her out.’ I knew I was going to throw to third base, and I just wanted to come up big for my team. I wanted to be the one to make a big play.”

On pitcher Rachele Fico
Rachele Fico’s a phenomenal pitcher. We’re going to miss her so much next year. It was an honor to play with her honestly. When I met her, before I got her, I said, ‘I’m going to be so happy to play with her when I get to college.’ Thursday, she had that troubling seventh inning. This time she came out and said, ‘I’m not doing it again guys. I’m going to get it done for you.’ I mean that’s just phenomenal.”

On what it means to win a share of the SEC Western Division …
“It’s great. At practice, Coach Torina pointed it out to us a few weeks ago that we had an empty bench of SEC West trophies. She put the all the papers down and said, ‘This is all Alabama.’ I think from that point on we decided we’re going to try to win this. Today, winning it is a great feeling. I’m so honored to be at this program.”

P RACHELE FICO

On what it meant to pitch on Senior Day …
“This day was so special. I’m just so proud to be a Tiger. In my heart, I know this is the right place for me, and I’m so glad I made the decision I did. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I absolutely would come to LSU without a doubt. I bleed Purple and Gold now. I never really understood what this place is all about until I got down here. LSU sucks you up, and it turns you into a Tiger for life. I understand now. I get it now. I get why this place is so special. There’s no place like it on Earth. I’m so proud to be a Tiger.”

On how her offense was able to pick her up out there today …
“It is so awesome. Just everything that this team is accomplishing is incredible. They have so much fight and so much passion. They never hang their heads. We’ve been tested so many times this season, and so many times we’ve pulled it out when we needed to. I’m so happy that I’m a part of this group. I can’t say enough good things about this team. Every week they continue to leave me speechless. They’re just such a special group of girls, and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.”

On her favorite memories as a Tiger …
“It’s really hard to pick. That’s always going to be something that’s really special to me, and I’ll remember it for the rest of my life (when Brittany Mack got the RBI hit to defeat Georgia last season on Senior Day). Katie Guillory coming up today and making it happen for us and sparking that two-run rally with two outs, that’s just so awesome. I don’t know what it is about Senior Day that makes people come through and do big things, but I am so grateful that I’ve been able to be a part of such special moments for the past two years.”

On ending the game 1-2-3 in the seventh inning …
“That inning was huge for us. We knew that we had the speed of their lineup coming up. That can be so dangerous. It’s something that we know the effects of it because we have that speed on our team. They’re absolutely so dangerous when they get on-base and make things happen. So, we knew that we were going to play really good defense. They put the ball in play. We were able to make good plays, and we were able to end it on a strikeout which is so awesome. That team is so talented. I have so much respect for the Alabama softball program. To be able to clinch the SEC West on this day is just such a special thing to me. It’s something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

On playing Northwestern State this week …
“Every time we play an in-state school, they come to us with their ‘A’ game. They really rise up to the occasion. We have a target on our backs, and I think that’s so awesome. I think it’s so awesome that there are so many teams out there that come to Tiger Park and get so excited to play us. They look forward to playing us. Not a lot of teams can say that so many teams across the country look forward to playing them. That means that we’re doing something right if they want to play us. They know that they’re going to have to come with their ‘A’ game. It’s a really awesome thing to be a part of. We’re going to have to make sure that we give it everything we’ve got. We don’t take anyone lightly. We need to play Tiger Softball. When we play the way that we know how, we’re going to be really successful.”

1B SANDRA SIMMONS

On sweeping Alabama and getting the emotional victory…
“While playing these games, I don’t think we were focused on that. When we did talk about it at practice, it hurt us. We knew we wanted to end that and get our series and division wins. This weekend, we just came out ready and played one pitch and one at-bat at a time. We were able to get the win and conference win this weekend.”

On rallying with two-outs…
“It definitely gives us confidence. I think we all believe in ourselves that we can do it with one out, and especially with two outs, we know we have to get the job done. We were able to execute, relax and get the pitches we needed. That helps us with two outs.”

On Rachele Fico’s pitching performance and contribution to the team…
“Rachele (Fico) means a lot. I am so blessed to have her on my team and play one year with her. She won’t be back on the team next year, but she will be around the program as a student coach. That will definitely help us. Her performance was unbelievable. She was relaxed. She was calm. We got those two wins because of her, and our offense and defense as well.”


 

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