LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 10 LSU softball team will square off with Georgia during Thursday’s quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament. First pitch is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. CT from John Cropp Stadium on the University of Kentucky campus.
Thursday’s contest will be broadcasted by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge and can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway set to call the action.
Every game of the 2013 SEC Tournament will be televised by the ESPN family of networks. Thursday’s quarterfinal tilt will be carried by ESPNU with Pam Ward, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe serving as the announcing team. All 2013 SEC Tournament games also will be available via http://www.watchespn.com/ and the Watch ESPN app.
LSU (40-13, 15-8 SEC) earned a fourth-place finish in the overall SEC standings and secured its conference-leading ninth SEC Western Division crown. The Tigers won their first division title since 2007 on the strength on winning six of their eight SEC series on the season.
During the regular season, LSU racked up 13 victories over RPI 1-25 squads which are tied for the nation’s lead with top-ranked Oklahoma. The Tigers also are one of five programs to register 20 wins over RPI 1-50 opponents.
Georgia (37-18, 14-9 SEC) jumped up to finish in fifth place after taking both 10-7 and 10-5 decisions over LSU last weekend in Athens. It marked the first time in program history that the Tigers have given up double-digit runs in back-to-back games.
The Bulldogs have won nine of the last 10 meetings versus LSU going back to the 2010 campaign. The lone exception was a 1-0 victory on Senior Day last season when Rachele Fico tossed a four-hit shutout, and Brittany Mack ripped a RBI double for the game’s only run.
UGA’s powerful offense has five players with double digit home runs and is sparked by Paige Wilson, the reigning SEC Player of the Week and an All-SEC First-Team selection. She has ripped off a team-leading .409 batting average to go along with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs.
Wilson’s 59 RBIs are tied for the team lead with Geri Ann Glasco, the SEC’s Co-Freshman of the Year and All-SEC Freshman-Team honoree. She has cranked a .380 hitting ratio and a SEC-leading 19 home runs. Kaylee Puailoa, another All-SEC First-Team and All-SEC Freshman-Team pick, is right behind Wilson with a .395 hitting clip, 15 dingers and 49 RBIs.
In the circle, Morgan Montemayor and Chelsea Wilkinson tallied the wins over LSU last weekend. Montemayor is 12-6 with a staff-low 2.47 ERA and has notched 96 strikeouts over 116.0 innings of work. Glasco has collected a staff-best 17 wins and 123 strikeouts, while Wilkinson has posted a 7-4 mark fueled by 105 Ks over 90.2 frames.
“We’re excited to see Georgia again,” head coach Beth Torina said. “We know a lot about them, and they know a lot about us at this point too. Obviously, we have a ton of respect for the quality of their program. They’re definitely a special offense. You don’t get a moment to breathe one through nine. We’re definitely going to have to make an adjustment in the circle to be successful on Thursday.”
“That’s going to be a huge relief for the players to just focus on softball. I know that finals really stress them out a little bit. It’d be nice to not be a student athlete for a couple of weeks and mostly just be an athlete, which is a rare thing for them and their time management skills. We’re excited about the opportunity and we know at this point everyone is 0-0 for the post season. We’re ready to go to work, this is why we play, and this is what we’re prepared for.”
LSU had five players come away with All-SEC accolades. A.J. Andrews led the way and was the seventh outfielder to garner All-SEC First Team, while Jacee Blades, Bianka Bell and Rachele Fico each secured All-SEC Second-Team selections.
Bell added to her memorable freshman campaign and became the second player in program history to earn a share of SEC Freshman of the Year award. The Florida native joins Fico who picked up SEC Co-Freshman of the Year in 2010. Bell also secured All-SEC Freshman accolades with Kellsi Kloss.
Andrews is the only player to start in all 53 games on the season. She has turned in a team-high .359 batting average on 65 hits, the 65 hits were seventh in the SEC. The Florida native also ranks among the SEC’s Top 15 with a team-leading 44 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.
Andrews has tallied a team-high 18 multi-hit performances and drove home 32 RBIs to rank second on the squad. She has driven home six game-winning/game-tying RBIs in fifth inning or later in SEC action.
Blades has produced a .357 batting average on 57 hits primarily from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. The 57 hits are tied for 14th in the SEC rankings. She has notched hits in multiple games during seven of LSU’s eight SEC series. Blades has added 15 multi-hit games, third-most on the team.
Bell has registered a .357 batting average to go along with a team-best 12 home runs and 47 RBIs … The 12 homers are tied for third-most in program history for a single season and tied for 12th in the SEC whereas the 47 RBIs are the third-highest by a freshman in program history and tied for 10th in the SEC.
Bell has ripped off 16 multi-hit and 12 multi-RBI efforts in addition to being apart of 31 percent of LSU’s runs scored. Nine of her 12 homers and 32 of her 47 RBIs have come since March 17.
Kloss along with Sandra Simmons have teamed with Bell to provide 21 of LSU’s 40 home runs on the season. The freshman trio also has accounted for 101 of the team’s 243 RBIs on the season.
Kloss has turned in a .275 batting average and 13 of her 25 hits on the season have produced runs for LSU. Her five home runs are tied for third place on the team with Allison Falcon, who missed the Georgia series due to injury.
Simmons has garnered a .267 hitting clip and garnered hits in nine of her last 16 games dating back to April 3. She is third on the squad with 30 RBIs.
Simone Heyward has boosted her average to a season’s best .345 average. She enters the SEC Tournament on a career-long five-game hitting streak and totaled 12 of her 15 stolen bases in conference play which was tied for second on the SEC leaderboard.
Fico notched a 24-10 mark and twirled 10 shutouts, good enough for an eighth-place tie nationally. Her 24 wins are tied for third in the SEC, while her 215 strikeouts were second-most in the SEC. The senior right-hander was one of two pitchers to rank among SEC’s Top 4 in wins (11), ERA (2.27), Ks (94) & opponent average (.198) in league games.
Ashley Czechner has tallied a 10-1 record in the circle highlighted by victories over No. 4 Alabama and No. 12 Missouri during the regular season. She will look to bounce back from surrendering a career-high 10 runs versus Georgia on May 5.
Meghan Patterson has won six of her eight decisions on the season and compiled a staff-low 1.73 ERA. In her last outing, Patterson tossed 3.2 innings of relief where she allowed two runs on four hits at Georgia on May 3.
“It’s going to be a huge relief for the players to just focus on softball,” Torina said. “I know that finals really stress them out. It’s going to be nice for them to just be an athlete instead of student-athletes for a couple of weeks which is a rare thing for them. We know at this point everyone is 0-0 for the postseason play. We’re ready to go to work. This is why we play, and this is what we’re prepared for.”
Every game of LSU softball this season will have live stats available at LSUsports.net/livestats. Fans can also follow every pitch via live in-game updates at the program's social media outlets @lsusoftball on Twitter and www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball.