BATON ROUGE – Sandra Simmons turned in a 3-for-4 performance and equaled a career-best four RBIs, while Ashley Czechner tossed a two-hit shutout as the No. 9 national seed LSU softball team came away with an 11-0 victory in six innings over Central Connecticut State during a NCAA Baton Rouge Regional elimination contest Saturday at Tiger Park.
LSU (42-15) advances to face Louisiana-Lafayette (45-13) in Sunday’s regional final with a 1 p.m. first pitch. The Tigers must defeat the Cajuns twice to secure a spot in next week’s NCAA Super Regional Round after ULL earned a 3-0 win over LSU during Saturday’s winner’s bracket game.
LSU pounded out 12 hits versus Central Connecticut State (36-15) en route to its 14th double digit effort of the season. The three hits for Simmons were a career-high. Bianka Bell, Jacee Blades and Tammy Wray also added multi-hit efforts for the Tigers. Wray tacked on three RBIs, while Bell secured two RBIs to notch her team-leading 14th multi RBI outing of the season.
“We would like to congratulate Central Connecticut State on a great season,” head coach Beth Torina said. “They did a great job, played hard all day and just ran out of gas for this game. What a great season for them and their program. They are a class act. I liked how our team played today. I thought we played hard, and we needed some momentum and confidence. We swung really well, and hopefully we can roll that in to tomorrow. Ashley Czechner threw fantastic again, and I felt that she was dominant for a second day in a row, which is tough to do.”
The Tigers seized control from the onset and put together a four-run first inning. A.J. Andrews knocked a leadoff double, while Blades reached base on an error by the CCSU pitcher. Another error from the Blue Devils allowed Andrews to cross the plate with the game’s first run.
Allison Falcon was hit-by-a-pitch to load the bases and set the stage for Simmons, who cranked a two-run single to right field on a 1-2 offering. Simmons capped the four-run frame by stealing second base. She advanced to third as Falcon was thrown out attempting to score. Simmons alertly went to third base and was awarded home on interference when she collided with CCSU third baseman Nicole Springer.
“I think we just came out and played LSU softball, whereas the past two days we really didn’t,” Simmons said. “We came out a little timid, and we just wanted to show them who we really are. If we made mistakes then let it happen, because we were able to back it up.”
LSU exploded for five runs and sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth inning. Simone Heyward and Blades knocked singles to put runners on the corners with one out. Bell knocked a RBI single through the middle to plate Heyward and push the LSU lead to 7-0.
A Falcon infield single filled the bases, and Simmons struck again with another two-run single, this time through the middle, to vault the Tigers ahead by a 9-0 margin. Two batters later after a Kloss walk, Wray cranked a two-run double into the left centerfield gap for the winning tally of 11-0.
“We needed that to get some confidence,” Torina said. “I was hoping we could put some hits together and score some runs. I just think this team wants to win so bad that they press so hard and try too hard. It’s not that they aren’t working. They just want it so bad that they press.”
After allowing a leadoff single during the first inning, Czechner retired 17 of the next 18 batters. She finished with nine strikeouts, her second-highest career output at LSU, and improved her record to 12-1 for the season.
CCSU’s Laura Messina was tagged with the loss and finished her season with a 28-11 mark.
“I think having a lot of confidence is key,” Czechner said. “I know that in the postseason you either win or go home. I knew I had to get this win so we could fight to play another game and make it to the regional championship.”
Game 1 – No. 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 3, No. 10 LSU 0
Louisiana-Louisiana scored its three runs courtesy of a Brianna Cherry two-run home run in the first inning followed by a solo shot from Sara Corbello during the seventh inning.
In the circle, Jordan Wallace fired a two-out shutout for the Cajuns and racked up 10 strikeouts versus one walk to improve to 30-7 for the season. The sophomore right-hander retired the first nine batters she faced and limited LSU's offense to four baserunners.
“Ultimately, Jordan Wallace threw a really good game against us,” Torina said. “She was very difficult to make an adjustment with. She kept us off-balanced. I didn’t think we played very confidently. I thought we played not to lose instead to play to win. We haven’t played like that all year. Hopefully, we can go back to the plate and play more confident and play more like LSU softball.”
LSU's best opportunity to score came during the fourth inning. A.J. Andrews ripped a leadoff double that deflected off the glove of ULL shortstop Nerissa Myers. Two batters later, Allison Falcon coaxed a four-pitch walk. However, Wallace got off the jam and fanned Sandra Simmons.
The Tigers sent the tying run to the plate in the sixth inning after Jacee Blades connected for a two-out single into left centerfield. Once again, Wallace used a timely strikeout of Bianka Bell to end the rally.
Rachele Fico went the distance in the circle for the Tigers and dropped to 24-12 on the season. She allowed three runs on two hits and notched seven Ks against two walks.
“She had a great performance and missed two pitches,” Torina said. “One my fault and one her fault. They might be both my fault. Ultimately, I thought she did a good job. It was a gutsy performance. I think it is unrealistic for us to think we can shut them out. We just have to make sure our offense can support her. She is a gutsy kid and the gutsiest kid we have. I know she is going to want to keep on playing ball. She is going to keep going out there and do her best.”
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: Louisiana-Lafayette 3, No. 9 LSU 0
Game 4: Central Connecticut State 9, Northwestern State 1
Game 5: No. 9 LSU 11, Central Connecticut State 0
Sunday, May 19
Game 6: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. No. 9 LSU – 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. CCSU
May 18, 2013
LSU Postgame Quotes
HEAD COACH BETH TORINA
Opening Statement …
“We would like to congratulate Central Connecticut State on a great season. They did a great job, played hard all day and just ran out of gas for this game. What a great season for them and their program. They are a class act. I liked how our team played today. I thought we played hard, and we needed some momentum and confidence. We swung really well, and hopefully we can roll that in to tomorrow. Ashley Czechner threw fantastic again, and I felt that she was dominant for a second day in a row, which is tough to do.”
On starting out strong …
“We needed that to get some confidence. I was hoping we could put some hits together and score some runs. I just think this team wants to win so bad that they press so hard and try too hard. It’s not that they aren’t working. They just want it so bad that they press.”
On the plan tomorrow …
“We are going to start the day with Rachele Fico and go from there. I want them to focus on playing one game at a time and not thinking of it as a whole. We have to win the first game to move on. If we can get that game then everybody is in a similar boat. At this point we are going to focus on game 1 and try to win it.”
On making adjustments …
“Our offense needs to do some things differently. We need to swing at different counts and different pitches. We have to try and put the ball in play a little more. There were too many strikeouts and too many times where we were swinging at bad pitches.
On needing a strong crowd …
“It would be great to see a lot of purple and gold out there. Our fans are a huge support system for this team and really keep us going. They fire up our team, and I thought what they did for Central Connecticut was just fantastic. They were very classy and appreciative of all of the effort that their program has put in. If we can see a sea of purple and gold tomorrow, then I know it will be a huge help.”
P ASHLEY CZECHNER
On the reason for her success …
“I think having a lot of confidence is key. I know that in the postseason you either win or go home. I knew I had to get this win so we could fight to play another game and make it to the regional championship, and then hopefully a super regional.”
On preparing for ULL …
“They are a great team and great program. They got a couple of good swings on good pitches. Overall (Rachele) Fico threw a great game and we picked up things here and there. I think I’ll be ready if I have to pitch.”
1B SANDRA SIMMONS
On playing aggressive …
“I think we just came out and played LSU softball, whereas the past two days we really didn’t. We came out a little timid, and we just wanted to show them who we really are. If we made mistakes then let it happen, because we were able to back it up.”
On how to improve against ULL …
“Overall, I think we just didn’t come out with confidence. We were lacking it today, and all of our batters were struggling on knowing what our pitch was. If we come out swinging like we came tonight, then I think we will be okay.”
Central Connecticut Quotes
HEAD COACH JEFF FRANQUET
Opening statement …
“Obviously, it’s been the most remarkable season in my career. I just told the players out there, and I think I may have said this yesterday, my daughter being born, my son being born and this season have been the best three moments of my life so far. The six seniors started the foundation four years ago when I got here. I told them that this moment, being conference champions, being in the NCAA Tournament and being one of the top 64 teams was the furthest things from their minds. I said, ‘Don’t cry out here.’ They should be walking off the field with tears of joy; I get it, but just be so proud. This program is now on the map, and it’s a tribute to the 27 players. I don’t have anything to do with it. I prepare them, but they play the game. I remember doing an interview with our media staff, and I told them that the LSU fans are going to love this team. Today was a prime example of that. Talk about class when they gave Laura (Messina) a standing ovation. I’m pretty sure they don’t give too many opposing pitchers standing ovations, unless they respect them. For them to wave to our fans, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Obviously, we would have liked to win, but the cards fell how they were supposed to fall. We lost to potentially a World Series team and one of the best teams in the country. They’re very well coached. This whole entire experience at LSU has been remarkable. Hats off to the LSU staff and administration. The team has had nothing but a great time down here, and we’re so proud to have been to the LSU Regional and represent the Northeast Conference.”
Previewing LSU vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and LSU’s chances to win the regional …
“Obviously, LSU has their work cut out for them coming out of the loser’s bracket and having to win two games. They certainly have the pitching staff to come back and win that, and essentially it was two hits this morning that put them behind. They’re just going to have to find a way to get to number No. 7 on Louisiana-Lafayette, because I’m sure she’ll be ready to go tomorrow. Are they capable of doing it? Absolutely. I’m pretty sure there will be about 3,000 people here tomorrow, probably half in red and half in purple and yellow. Beth (Torina) will have them ready, and Howard (Dobson) will have them ready to do. They’ll feel the energy form the fans. They’ll have as good a shot as anybody. You play double headers every weekend, so it’s nothing different. You show up and play two games, 84 outs, and hopefully you end up on the winning end of that.
P LAURA MESSINA
On her emotions leaving the field in the fifth inning …
“Really, it’s just crazy that the season’s over. It went so fast. I’m going to miss playing with the six seniors that we have. Playing with Nicole (Springer) has been one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve ever had. She’s a great player. It’s the same with Steph (Chotkevys), Sarah (Emery), Lauryn (Alibozek), Jordan (Tingley) and Kelsey (Barlow). They’re just amazing people. It’s amazing that I had the chance to play with them.”
On what went wrong tonight against LSU …
“We let things snowball. When you let things snowball, it’s never a good thing. We didn’t keep it simple. We didn’t focus every pitch. We didn’t focus every at-bat. That’s when you let things get away from you.”