BATON ROUGE – After 12 straight games at home, the No. 23 LSU softball team hits the road to face its stiffest test yet as the Tigers participate in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic at the Big League Dreams Complex in Palm Springs, Calif., Feb. 20-22.
The Tigers will play five games in California beginning on Thursday afternoon, kicking off the tournament against Long Beach State at 5 p.m. CT. LSU will not have it easy out in sunny California, as the Tigers will take on third-ranked Washington later on that day at 7:30 p.m. CT, No. 6 Oregon Friday night at 8 p.m. CT, Cal State Fullerton at 10:30 p.m. CT and close with No. 13 Stanford Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT.
Live stats of all five games will be provided at www.lsusports.net/livestats, with live updates posted to both Facebook and Twitter.
“We are going to be facing some of the best softball teams in the country this weekend, and we’ll get to see what we’re made of with one tournament left before conference starts,” head coach Beth Torina said. “We’ve had some time to evaluate and see where our team is after two weeks, and this will be another opportunity for us to get stronger and find out how we match up against some of the best.”
LSU heads into the tournament with an 8-4 overall record after closing out the 2014 Tiger Invitational last weekend with wins over Northwestern, George Washington (twice) and one win over Penn State in a doubleheader on Monday, taking losses to South Alabama and the Nittany Lions for a 4-2 weekend.
Even with the addition of South Alabama to extend the tournament to four days, the Tigers were solid offensively as the group hit a tournament-high .370 for the weekend with 54 hits including seven doubles, four triples and seven home runs. LSU was swift on the bases as well, swiping 21 of 22 bags. Defensively the group committed just four errors, with a .973 fielding percentage, turning two double plays.
Leading the way for the Tigers was senior infielder Allison Falcon who was named the tournament most valuable player after batting .533 with nine RBI and four runs scored. Coming into the week hitting just .286, Falcon has upped her average to a team-leading .414 at the plate, among her two home runs of the weekend was the first grand slam of the season against George Washington and connected on two triples to become the first player since 2004 to achieve that feat.
Jacee Blades and Kellsi Kloss tied for the most hits among individuals with nine base knocks against tournament opposition and were also named to the all-tournament team, as Blades is tied for the team lead in hits along with A.J. Andrews with 13. Andrews continues to be a whirlwind on the bases, as she was a perfect 6-for-6 along with Blades in stolen bases, as Andrews has 11 to lead the squad.
Kloss was one of three LSU players along with Falcon and Bianka Bell that provided the power for the offense, blasting two home runs in her .529 weekend. Bell now leads the team with three bombs on the season, while the Tigers as a whole have 10 through 12 games.
The LSU pitching core of Baylee Corbello, Ashley Czechner and Kelsee Selman combined for team earned run average of 3.13, which was third behind South Alabama and Northwestern, as the trio struck out 39 batters during their innings on the mound. Corbello won two of her three starts and produced a 1.47 ERA and included a shutout of Northwestern. Czechner won her first two games and had a four-game winning streak come to an end against the Nittany Lions on Monday, finishing third among pitchers with 13 strikeouts.
LSU went 5-1 at this tournament last season, but will see a decidedly much different slate of opponents as the squad will see three ranked teams in their lineup as opposed to just two last year.
Washington comes in as the No. 3-ranked team in the country and boasts the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I Player of the Week in Bryana Walker as the Huskies are a perfect 10-0 on the season. Oregon checks in with a 9-1 record after two weeks, while Stanford is 11-0. The two California teams in Long Beach and Cal State Fullerton sport 6-4 and 9-3 records, respectively.
The Ducks won the first meeting against LSU last season, while the Tigers have won two meetings against the 49’ers and three of four against the Titans. The team will be looking for better efforts against Stanford and Washington, as LSU has dropped the last two meetings against both in the series history.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @BethTorina on Twitter and @lsusb on Instagram.