Seniors Give Torina 100th LSU Win
BATON ROUGE, La. – Led by seniors Allison Falcon, Tammy Wray and Ashley Czechner, the LSU Tiger softball team held on for a 3-2 victory over the No. 1 Florida Gators Saturday night at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge to even the series at one game apiece, while also giving head coach Beth Torina her 100th win as head coach of the program.
LSU (18-9, 2-3 SEC) produced nine hits led by Falcon who went 3-for-3 with a home run, two doubles, two RBI and a run scored to power the Tiger offense, while the defense and pitching of the Tigers held the top-ranked Gators (27-2, 3-2 SEC) to just two runs on five hits. Wray put down the bunt that gave LSU a two-score lead in the second and had four put outs and three assists at third, while Czechner stifled the Gator bats for much of the contest.
“I think it was a situation where three seniors stepped up and performed,” Torina said. “They knew we needed it and we could do a lot more than what we did last night. At the end of the story, it was great to see the seniors do that for us.”
A day after putting UF on the ropes and nearly pulling off the series-opening upset, the Gators still didn’t go down quietly as a two-out, two-run home run from Stephanie Tofft in the top of the seventh cut the Tiger lead to just one. Although Florida couldn’t take the lead with one swing of the bat like it did the night before, Florida’s Taylore Fuller had another opportunity to give the Gators a second chance at taking the game to the bottom of the seventh, but Czechner had one more strikeout in her as she got the catcher on a swing and miss to end the game.
“We took last night’s loss really hard,” Czechner said. “We knew that we had that game but let up at the end. We knew today we had to come and fight to win this game.”
The Pawley’s Island, S.C., native broke a three-start losing streak as she improved to 6-5 on the season in the complete-game victory. She finished the night with six strikeouts and issued just two walks with two hit batters. Through five innings, Czechner had allowed just one hit as Florida had only one runner advance past second base, as the squad worked out of a host of jams as UF stranded nine runners on base over the course of the game.
Wray went 1-for-2 with a double and an RBI, as A.J. Andrews extended her hitting streak to nine games which ties Jacee Blades for the longest this season. Blades also garnered a hit along with Bailey Landry, Sahvanna Jaquish and Bianka Bell on the evening.
Florida’s Hannah Rogers, who earned the win last night by virtue of pitching the final two innings against the Tigers, suffered her second loss of the season as she gave up all three runs in six innings with a walk and just two strikeouts.
After Florida earned the game’s first hit in the top of the second, the Tigers did one better as Jaquish went to a full count and smoked one to the wall in right center to open the bottom half of the inning. After a deep fly to right center for the first out, Landry hit a chopper with some spin that allowed the outfielder to reach first safely and put runners at the corners.
Falcon came through on the second pitch of her at-bat and drilled it to left center scoring Jaquish to give LSU the 1-0 lead and put two in scoring position. Wray put the squeeze on the Gators as she put down a sacrifice bunt as Landry got in under the tag to put the Tigers up 2-0.
Falcon struck the big blow for the team with one out in the bottom of the fourth, as the senior second baseman connected on a 2-1 pitch in her at-bat and drove it over the fence in left to put LSU up 3-0 over the Gators. Blades garnered the second hit of the frame for LSU, but got caught trying to steal second to end the inning.
After a single by Florida to lead off the fifth, a fielder’s choice forced out the runner at second to put one out on the board. After another strikeout for Czechner, a walk put two back on for Florida with Fuller representing the game-tying run coming to the plate. Hoping to not have a repeat of last night, Czechner got to the same count from the night before, 1-2, but this time she grounded out to Wray at third to end the inning.
LSU nearly broke the game open in the team’s half of the sixth, as Falcon delivered an inning-opening double to start. Wray followed that up with another double to left field, but the shot was hit so hard that it bounced off the wall in the air right to the left fielder and Falcon was thrown out at home to keep the Tigers off the board. Wray moved to third after a grounder to third, but would stay there as another grounder to second ended the inning.
“We knew we just had to come back and play our best this game no matter what,” Falcon said. “It was cool to see the senior leadership tonight and the different sides of the ball game. We all lead in our own way in different phases of the game.”
First pitch of the series finale against Florida is set for 1 p.m. at Tiger Park on Sunday. The game will be aired live on Cox Sports Television, as 104.5 and 104.9 will broadcast the game on radio.
LSU vs. Florida
March 15, 2014
LSU HEAD COACH BETH TORINA
On tonight’s victory over the No. 1 Florida Gators…
“I think it was a situation where three seniors stepped up and performed. They knew we needed it and we could do a lot more than what we did last night. We were better. Allison Falcon, Ashley Czechner and Tammy Wray really stepped up tonight and lead us. It was nice to see that senior leadership. It has been a team where the freshmen have been making a lot of noise. At the end of the story, it was great to see the seniors do that for us.”
On Ashley Czechner’s performance tonight…
“That was the performance we needed. We needed someone to go out there and say we can throw strikes and we can get ahead and work counts. She (Ashley Czechner) did exactly what we needed her to do tonight.”
On Allison Falcon’s offensive performance tonight…
“She (Allison Falcon) did a great job tonight. When Ali (Falcon) gets hot, you better watch out. When she is swinging well, she is swinging well. When she starts off the night like that, you expect her to get another one and another one. When she gets going watch out.”
On rebounding back from last night’s loss to Florida…
“We didn’t drop that game last night to nobody. Florida is an amazing team. We knew we just had to come back and play our best this game no matter what. Coach (Torina) tries to instill that in us, not to take anyone lightly. You definitely can’t take Florida lightly. We knew we had to come out and play our best. Czechner did an amazing job, and we scored enough runs for her as an offense. It was a really good feeling.”
On Czechner, Wray and Falcon taking a leadership role tonight…
“We have never all stepped up like that. It was cool to see the senior leadership tonight and the different sides of the ball game. Tammy executed that squeeze bunt perfectly. I was praying for them to hit the ball to Tammy. Czechner did an amazing job, and the offense did well too. We all lead in our on way different phases of the game.”
On rebounding back from last night’s loss to Florida…
“We took last night’s loss really hard. We knew that we had that game but let up at the end. We knew today we had to come and fight to win this game. After yesterday, this team deserved to win. We were going on all cylinders offensively and defensively today. We were ready to play today.”
On dominating on the mound against the No. 1 team in the nation…
“It was cool. I just want to lead this team the best I can. I want to go all the way to the World Series and win. I’m just trying to help this team leave it’s mark on the national level and make the state of Louisiana proud.”
On Tammy Wray’s performance tonight…
“She (Tammy Wray) is phenomenal. I love having her at third base. She hit well tonight too. It is great having her there knowing if anything gets hit that way that she has a phenomenal glove to get the out we need.”