BATON ROUGE -- After seeing its four-run lead evaporate, the No. 21 LSU Tiger softball team got a big spark from sophomore third baseman Sandra Simmons, as her solo home run broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, sending the team to an 8-4 victory over the George Washington Colonials to earn a split of Saturday’s action at the 2014 Tiger Invitational.
After being held to just one run earlier in the day, LSU (7-3) exploded for four runs in the first inning and three runs in the sixth, finishing with eight total hits on the night, as three were for extra bases and included the second home runs of the season for Simmons and Bianka Bell. George Washington (0-9) was held to only five hits against the Tigers, coming from just four Colonial batters.
“I do think they came out fighting after inning one,” head softball coach Beth Torina said. “I think we needed a spark to get us going again. By them tying it up, I think that did it. I think they came out fighting.”
Freshman Kelsee Selman earned the start in the circle for LSU, but it was senior Ashley Czechner who earned her fourth win of the season by pitching the final three innings and giving up two hits with a walk and a strikeout. Selman lasted four innings, but ran into trouble during the middle part of the game, ending the day giving up four runs on three hits with seven strikeouts and six walks.
Simmons paced the Tigers at the plate with an outstanding 2-for-3 night with two RBI and two runs scored, followed by Sahvanna Jaquish who smacked her first double of the season among her two hits on the night, while Bell, Kellsi Kloss, Constance Quinn, Simone Heyward A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades had the others.
“Since this season has started I have told myself to trust in your hands and see the ball, hit the ball,” Simmons said. “I am a person who does better when someone is a little more aggressive toward me. I took it upon myself to get us back in the game.”
Andrews led off the contest with a single to second base, and then promptly stole second and third to put pressure on the Colonials right out of the gate. An error at short allowed Andrews to score with Blades reaching first. Blades went on to steal second and third as well, with Simmons connecting on a 3-2 pitch up the middle to score the left fielder to make it 2-0 LSU.
Jaquish grounded out to third base, advancing Simmons to second to leave the door open for Bell who took the fifth pitch of her at bat over the fence to put the Tigers up 4-0.
After holding George Washington scoreless for the first two innings, the Colonials began to slowly chip away at the Tiger lead, scoring four unanswered runs from the third to the fifth inning, tying the game at 4-4 even as Selman was relieved in favor of Czechner in the fifth. GW scored a run on two hits in the fifth, as a double play ball helped clear the bases and end the inning without giving up any more scores.
“I wanted to leave Kelsee (Selman) out there as long as possible to let her try to fight through some things,” Torina said. “It was a situation where I should have probably made a change sooner, but it just didn’t match up very well. I also wanted to see what our freshman was made out of.”
With two outs, Simmons found her swing again, this time launching a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right center to break the tie and put LSU back up 5-4. Jaquish followed up with a single of her own, but was thrown out trying to advance to second on the same play.
The LSU sixth was the dagger for the Colonials, as the Tigers got three runs on two hits with two errors in the frame. George Washington committed four total errors on the night, as LSU got a double from Kloss, RBI groundout from Quinn and a Heyward single among throwing errors from the GW catcher and third baseman during the frame.
Game 1: No. 18 South Alabama 2, No. 21 LSU 1
The No. 21 LSU softball team outhit the No. 18 South Alabama Jaguars 9-5 over the course of seven innings, but the Tigers stranded eight runners on base and only managed one run as the Jaguars defeated LSU and snapped the team’s six-game winning streak, 2-1, in the first game of the day for the squad at the 2014 Tiger Invitational.
Five LSU (6-3) hitters accounted for all nine hits for the Tigers on the afternoon, led by Jacee Blades and her 3-for-4 day with a run scored. A.J. Andrews and Kellsi Kloss connected on two hits each, while Sandra Simmons and Sahvanna Jaquish had one a piece. The three hits were a season high for the senior from Baton Rouge, as Blades tied her career high in base knocks.
“My job is to put the ball on ground and go,” Blades said. “Especially as the two hole, you have to move the runners and get on base so that the people behind you can hit me in. I have a lefty in front of me that hits completely different than me and a lefty behind me who hit different than I do. It is great to be on a team that hit homeruns when we need it.”
Taking the loss for LSU was Baylee Corbello, who scattered five hits in the complete-game effort, giving up two runs, one earned, with seven strikeouts and four walks. South Alabama’s Hannah Campbell went the distance for the Jaguars in the win, as she struck out seven and had no walks with one run allowed.
After plodding through the first inning and giving up a run to the Jaguars, LSU regrouped and struck quickly after getting an RBI double from Simmons that bounced off of the wall in left center to score Blades to tie the game at 1-1. It was the second consecutive hit for the Tigers, as Blades reached first on an infield single and then stole second base.
LSU put together its best chance to break the tie in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Bianka Bell got plunked to take first base with one out already. Kloss followed that up with a single up the middle to put two on with only the one out on the board. Simone Heyward came on to pinch run for Bell at second base, but Allison Falcon hit into an inning-ending double play to end the threat and leave the game knotted at 1-1.
The fifth inning had the potential to be disastrous for LSU, as the Tigers would give up one run on consecutive hits and almost gave up more as the Jaguars earned a bases loaded opportunity with just one out. A big strikeout by Corbello and pop up to center field ended the inning and kept LSU within striking distance.
With their backs against the wall in the bottom half of the inning and with two outs already, Andrews singled to take first on a bunt. After she stole second, Blades laced her third infield hit of the game to put runners at the corners. Blades stole second to put both she and Andrews in scoring position, but a grounder to second base ended the inning.
Jaquish got on with a single up the middle down two strikes in the count and advanced over after a sacrifice bunt by Bell in the sixth. Kloss singled to short putting runners back at the corners, with Alex Boulet coming on to pinch run for the catcher. After Boulet stole second, a pop up and grounder ended another LSU scoring opportunity with three more outs left.
After a Bailey Landry strikeout, Andrews doubled to left center giving LSU another shot at tying or taking the contest in the seventh, but a groundout and line drive to the shortstop ended the game.
“Sometimes you are going to have games like that, but that is what makes you work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again later on in the season,” Blades said.
LSU returns to the diamond on Monday, hosting Penn State in the final two games of the Tiger Invitational at 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. at Tiger Park.
LSU vs. South Alabama/George Washington
February 15, 2014
COACH BETH TORINA
On today’s loss to No. 18 South Alabama…
“I think in the course of 56 game season games like that happen. I thought we played really well. We had nine hits off an All-American pitcher. I thought we did a really good job. We didn’t get one break the entire game. I really thought we played well. We got a good performance from Baylee Corbello again. We just didn’t get the timely hit, but that happens.”
On coming back after the loss to defeat George Washington…
“I do think they came out fighting after inning one. After inning one we got a little flat. I think we needed a spark to get us going again. By them tying it up, I think that did it. I think they came out fighting. They wanted to send a message after that loss.”
On today’s pitching performance against George Washington…
“I wanted to leave Kelsee (Selman) out there as long as possible to let her try to fight through some things. She is a freshman and needs to learn how to work through those things. I wanted to stay with her as long as I could. They saw (Ashley) Czechner yesterday, and we got to a part in the lineup that did well against her. So I wanted to get Kelsee through that part as well. It was a situation where I should have probably made a change sooner, but it just didn’t match up very well. I also wanted to see what our freshman was made out of. She did get out of that bad inning. Then she came out the next inning, and it was time to make the change.”
1B SANDRA SIMMONS
On her homerun against George Washington…
“Since this season has started I have told myself to trust in your hands and see the ball hit the ball. On defense before Coach (Torina) told us to step it up and get back in this game. I am person who does better when someone is a little more aggressive toward me. I took it upon myself to get us back in the game. We needed those runs for our pitchers to feel secure.”
On trusting her hands and seeing the ball at the plate…
“As softball players we have all been told that since we were little. I just go back to that. Before I get in the box I tell myself to see the ball, hit the ball and trust. My hands are going in the right path. I just have to let them work.”
On regaining the momentum of the game against George Washington…
“We are a team that builds on momentum. It just so happened I was that person. I was glad that we were able to get the momentum and extra runs for our pitching staff.”
LF JACEE BLADES
On not executing offensively against South Alabama…
“We just didn’t execute. We didn’t put the ball in play. We had people in position. I had someone on second, and I couldn’t come through. Sometime you are going to have games like that, but that is what makes you work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again later on in the season.”
On each hitters role in the lineup…
“My job is to put the ball on ground and go. Especially as the two hole, you have to move the runners and get on base so that the people behind you can hit me in. I have a lefty in front of me that hits completely different than me and a lefty behind me who hit different than I do. It is great to be on a team that hit homeruns when we need it.”
On the importance of base running…
“We work on the little things in practice. We base run every single day. Not a lot of colleges do that. We literally line up to run. They tell us what to do. We practice our leads and different situations. That comes into play with stuff like this. We execute in practice and come out here to put it into the game.”