BATON ROUGE – Ashley Czechner racked up a career-best 15 strikeouts to spark the No. 9 national seed LSU softball team to a 3-2 triumph over Central Connecticut State to open the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional Friday as 1,432 fans gathered at Tiger Park.
The Tigers (41-14) moved their record to 4-0 during NCAA Regional action under second-year coach Beth Torina and advance to face Louisiana-Lafayette in Saturday’s winner’s bracket contest with a 12 p.m. first pitch. The Cajuns (44-13) garnered a 3-0 victory over Northwestern State.
Czechner was touched up for two runs, one earned, on three hits. She equaled her previous career-best of eight strikeouts by recording her first eight outs of the game via the strikeout and improved her mark to 11-1 for the season. The 15 Ks was the second-most by a LSU pitcher on the season only behind Rachele Fico’s 22-strikeout effort at Mississippi State on March 8.
Central Connecticut State (35-13), the Northeast Conference champions making its first NCAA Tournament appearance, rode a steller effort in the circle from Laura Messina. She went the distance and limited the Tigers to three runs, one earned, on five hits. She tallied two strikeouts against one walk but dropped to 27-10 on the season.
With the scored tied at 2-2 in the fifth inning, LSU scored the game-winning run courtesy of a Falcon RBI single with two outs. Andrews opened the rally with a leadoff single and moved into scoring position after a Jacee Blades sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Falcon laced a line drive into centerfield.
“Ultimately, I’m glad we’re walking away with a win,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I think that’s most important. At this point, everybody in the tournament is a quality opponent. We’re just happy that we were able to come away with a win. Messina threw a great game against us. Luckily, we were able to get the timely hit from Falcon, and we got some great pitching on the mound from Czechner that kept us in the ball game. At the end of the day, it probably was not our best game nor our prettiest effort, but we’re walking away with a win and moving on in the winner’s bracket.”
“A.J. and Jacee do a great job of getting on and moving each other over into scoring position,” Falcon said. “So, I know that when I get up to bat that I always have a job to do. I was really excited to get a chance to do that job, so I really am happy that they were able to do that for me.”
LSU jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the first inning. Andrews ripped a leadoff single and raced around bases after a throwing error by Messina on Blades’ sacrifice bunt. The error enabled Blades to reach third base on the play. Bell platted Blades on a RBI groundout.
The Blue Devils took advantage of a pair of LSU errors to pull back to within 2-1 during the second inning. With two outs, Evie Renzell dropped a bunt in-front of the pitcher’s circle. An errant Czechner throw followed by a fielding error by right fielder Simone Heyward allowed Renzel to score on the play. “It’s not my first error, and it’s not going to be my last,” Czechner said. “I made the error, and I just put it behind me. I knew I still had a ball game to throw. I knew I still had to go out there and pitch well to get the win for my team.”
Central Connecticut State knotted the score at 2-2 in the third inning as Arielle Bruno lifted a solo home run onto the left field berm.
The Blue Devils put the potential go-ahead runs on-base during the fourth inning, but Czechner got Eileen Purcell to strike out looking to keep the score even at 2-2. The junior right-hander fired 19-of-26 in the first pitch strike department and sat down nine of the final 10 batters she faced.
“Ashley is a great pitcher,” Torina said. “She has one loss on the year. She has wins against Alabama, Missouri and some great teams. She’s a really talented pitcher, and she’s capable of doing that. I’m so confident in her. She’s been there and done that. She’s won a national championship in junior college. She can pitch the big game, and she understands her mental effort that she has to put in to get us that win.”
Every game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional will have live video inside the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net/live. The LSU games also will be carried live by the LSU Sports Network and Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area.
Single-game tickets for this weekend’s NCAA Baton Rouge Regional are on-sale at www.LSUtix.net. They also can be purchased on-site at the Tiger Park Ticket Office. Adult berm/standing room only tickets are available for $7, youth berm/standing room only tickets are priced at $5.
Fans can follow every pitch of LSU softball via live in-game updates at the program's social media outlets @lsusoftball on Twitter and www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball.
2013 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional
Friday, May 17
Game 1: Louisiana-Lafayette 3, Northwestern State 0
Game 2: No. 9 LSU 3, Central Connecticut State 2
Saturday, May 18
Game 3: No. 9 LSU vs. Louisiana-Lafayette – 12 p.m.
Game 4: Northwestern State vs. Central Connecticut State – 3 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner – 6 p.m.
Sunday, May 19
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner – 1 p.m.
Game 7: Game 6 rematch if necessary – 4 p.m.
Single Game Tickets
Adult Berm/Standing Room Only, $7
Youth Berm/Standing Room Only, $5
Students (Valid ID Required) Berm/Standing Room Only, $5
Groups (10 or more) Berm/Standing Room Only, $5
LSU vs. Central Connecticut St.
May 17, 2013
LSU Postgame Quotes
HEAD COACH BETH TORINA
Opening statement …
“Ultimately, I’m glad we’re walking away with a win. I think that’s most important. At this point, everybody in the tournament is a quality opponent. We’re just happy that we were able to come away with a win. (Laura) Messina threw a great game against us I thought. Luckily, we were able to get the timely hit from (Allison) Falcon, and we got some great pitching on the mound from Ashley Czechner that kept us in the ball game. At the end of the day, it probably was not our best game nor our prettiest effort, but we’re walking away with a win and moving on in the winner’s bracket.”
On P Ashley Czechner
“She’s a great pitcher. She has one loss on the year, and she has wins against Alabama, Missouri and some great teams. She’s a really talented pitcher, and she’s capable of doing that. I’m so confident in her. We don’t just have a one-pitcher staff that we have to lean on one person the whole time and throw their arm off. We are going to be, hopefully, in a better spot tomorrow because we have a fresh Rachele Fico, and we have someone that hasn’t had to throw an entire game. So, we have a great staff. I’m confident in all three of them. I expect performances like that out of Ashley Czechner.”
On Ashley Czechner being able to handle pressure better than anyone on the team …
“Of everyone on our team, she is the one that can perform under pressure probably the best of everyone that we have. She’s been there and done that. She’s won a national championship in junior college. She can pitch the big game, and she understands her mental effort that she has to put in to get us that win.”
On pitching Ashley Czechner over Rachele Fico …
“I’m just really confident in her. I thought she was a good matchup for Central Connecticut. I thought she could get the win, and I thought we could have a fresh Rachele Fico tomorrow.”
On facing Louisiana-Lafayette tomorrow …
“We’re excited about it. We’re excited to face them. I know they have a quality program. They do things really well over there. I faced them quite a bit in my career. I came from the same conference as them, so it’s a team that I am familiar with, and I know all of our girls are familiar with. Ultimately, I think it’s a great matchup for the state of Louisiana. What a great game for all of the softball fans in Louisiana to come out and see.”
P ASHLEY CZECHNER
On her performance on the mound in the victory over Central Connecticut …
“Yeah, at first I was pitching pretty well. Then, I had a rough inning or two with my error and that home run. After that, I tried to settle down, calm back down and just focus on throwing strikes and getting strikeouts.”
“I think I just maybe panicked, got a little nervous. I threw an error and they capitalized on it. Thank God my offense was there. They came back and were really clutch, especially (Allison) Falcon getting that base hit.”
“It’s not my first error. It’s not going to be my last. I made error, and I just put it behind me. I knew I still had a ballgame to throw. I knew I still had to go out there and pitch well to get the win for my team.”
2B ALLISON FALCON
“Well, A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades do a great job of getting on and moving each other over into scoring position. So, I know that when I get up to bat that I always have a job to do. I was really excited to get a chance to do that job, so I really am happy that they were able to do that for me.”
LSU vs. Central Connecticut
May 17, 2013
Central Connecticut Quotes
HEAD COACH JEFF FRANQUET
Opening Statement …
“We are excited to be here. We got here on Tuesday, and we were looking forward to this. It was a great day on Wednesday and a great day on Thursday. All year long this team has believed in the process and believed they belong here. Certainly after that first inning, there are a lot of teams in this country that would have folded. They stayed focused and together. They kept believing. There is a saying that, ‘if you believe in you, believe in you.’ It has stood with us all year long. We have been through a lot of adversity. Tonight is a prime example of how far this program has come. I am very proud of our effort. I am sure the rest of the country is surprised that it was a three-two ball game.”
On expecting Fico to pitch tonight…
“I have been asked that since last week. I told the team after the game, ‘the best team we play all year is ourselves.’ If we can beat ourselves, it doesn’t matter who is on the mound. Our approach all week long is the same we have done all year long. Whoever is in the circle and between the lines is who we are going to play.”
On feeling underestimated playing against number 10 LSU…
“Not at all. I told our players from day one that once we won the conference that is the most awarding thing. That means you are consistent all year long. We were consistent all year long. When we won it I told our players that we earned the right to be one of the best 64 teams in the country. I believe that, and they believed that. Tonight that obviously showed.
P LAUREN MESSINA
On the first inning against LSU….
“I kept focusing on one pitch at a time. I got away from that in the first inning. We made it huge, instead of keeping it small and simple. It was just focusing on one pitch at a time. We are playing at a huge stadium and against a great team. We were a little jittery in the first inning.”
2B ARIELLE BRUNO
On keeping the game close with number 10 LSU…
“I think we knew to never give up and keep on trying. They put on the uniform just like we do. They have to swing the bat just like we do. They have to field the ball just like we do. We just thought about keeping it simple and never giving up.”
On her home-run…
“I was just thinking to hit the ball. I went up first and struck out. The next at-bat I told myself if you see a strike, hit the strike. That is what I did.”
Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Northwestern State
May 17, 2013
Northwestern State Postgame Quotes
HEAD COACH DONALD PICKETT
Opening statement from Coach:
“We had a good pitcher on the mound. We kept finding we had a chance to put a runner on there and get her across in the fourth inning. You know, we are really proud of our kids who kept batting and doing what it takes to win a game.”
On the tough loss to Louisiana-Lafayette …
“We game-planned, and I thought we did a pretty good job. Defensively, if we were going to have a chance to win, we were going to have to keep them in the park and limit their extra-base hits. To be honest with you, I don’t know if they had an extra-base hit. (Kylie) Roos gave up a scattered set of hits, but she did a really good job. The walks hurt us a little bit, you know, putting runners on base. They’re a good offensive team. We maybe didn’t make a couple of plays that normally we should. Kylie did a great job of keeping us in it and doing the things that we wanted to do in the game plan.”
On whether there were nerves involved in Game 1 of the regional …
“I think there was. Kylie (Roos) is a great pitcher. She’s been there for us all year long, but she did walk a lot of batters. Our defense has been pretty solid all year long. We’ve got some great fielders out in the outfield. I just thought we were walking a little bit on eggshells.”
On Louisiana-Lafayette Sophomore Pitcher Jordan Wallace …
“She’s pretty good. She works the ball up and down, and that’s the hardest pitching to hit. We’ve faced a lot of side-to-side kids, but we haven’t faces a lot of up-and-down pitchers. She was able to come up there with a hard-set mind, and she was throwing the low pitches a little bit off-speed. So, we’ve seen two different pitches and two different speeds. She did a really good job of working them in, mixing them up and keeping our kids off balance.”
On what adjustments need to be made for next game …
“We’re going to sit around, watch this game and see who we play. We’ve got a game plan for each team, and whatever team we face, we’ll be ready. We’ve just got to understand that we just need to play. We just need to keep doing the things we’ve done all year and not try to do anything else, put any extra pressure on ourselves if we come out here and lose, we’re done with the tournament.”
SENIOR OF JORDAN PALMER
Palmer on Pitching:
“She did a good job on throws high and on getting ahead in the count. We should have been a little more patient out there. We had some good at bats when we got ahead on the count, but she would throw low and high. She was really throwing the ball around and hitting her spots. She was throwing the ball really well, so she was good.”
On whether there were any nerves involved in the first game of the regional …
“A little bit of both, I believe. There were a lot of nerves. It’s a big place to play, but we were excited too. We were excited to be in this type of regional. We’re happy to be here.”
On preparing for this moment …
“We worked extremely hard. We were up in the mornings. We were doing weights. We were running. In the fall we had different workouts that we would do. Then, during the season, we came out and practiced hard every day. You practice how you play, so pretty hard all year.”
UP KYLIE ROOS
On the opportunity for her team to play this game …
“We’re just really excited about getting the opportunity to play here and show that we can compete. “
Louisiana-Lafayette Postgame Quotes
HEAD COACH MIKE LOTIEF
Opening Statement …
“I thought it was really hard fought. Credit to Northwestern, because they were prepared as well as our kids. That’s what postseason softball is supposed to be about. I’m proud of my kids for fighting and battling the adversity. We aren’t going to spend time looking back too much or looking too forward. We are going to enjoy the moment. These kids have worked hard. They’ve sacrificed a lot. Whenever you can be successful in the postseason it’s a good thing. It was a good atmosphere, and Go Cajuns!”
On pitching Jordan Wallace so much …
“It’s something she has been through since we just played in our conference tournament. She got extended the first day, but the next day she really had a masterful performance. If she believes she can do it, then it’s just about her mindset. She’s feeling confident. At this juncture of the season, it’s win or go home, and she has tremendous heart and incredible will.”
On Coach Donald Pickett …
“I’ve known Donald (Pickett) for a long time, and on Saturday nights we are usually the last ones standing. He’s a tremendous recruiter and has done a tremendous job rebuilding that program. “
SENIOR SHORTSTOP NERISSA MYERS
On her feel of the game…
“We went into the game trusting the process. We were prepared before the game, and as far as the runs go, we just trusted our teammates. I trusted the people behind me to move me, and unfortunately we should have had more runs. All in all, it’s just us trusting the process.”
On coming back from her injury…
“You never feel 100 percent after an ankle injury, but it’s good enough to get us to where we need to be to get to Oklahoma City. If it holds up until then, I’ll be happy.”
SOPHOMORE P JORDAN WALLACE
On Northwestern State’s plan…
“I think every team has a plan for every pitcher they face. If that was their plan, then it worked because they took me to a lot of full counts.”