BATON ROUGE - The No. 24 LSU softball team used a five-run fifth inning to extend its season's best winning streak to 12 games and claimed a 6-1 victory over Nicholls State Wednesday at Tiger Park.
"It's nice to have an opportunity to play some people and get everybody prepared for a big weekend because you never know who we'll have to call on this weekend," head coach Beth Torina said. "It's nice that they got in, and it's nice that they hit some balls hard. All of them work equally as hard every day at practice, so it's nice when they can get an opportunity."
Tied 1-1 during the fifth inning, the Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate. Rikki Alcaraz ignited the rally and laced a leadoff double into the left centerfield gap. Three batters later with two outs, Ashley Langoni drew a four-pitch walk.
On a 0-1 offering, Santos ripped a RBI single to plate Alcaraz with the go-ahead run. Langoni came around to score to make it 3-1 on an error by Nicholls second baseman Ashley Bertot when she dropped a throw during a rundown attempting to get Santos out in between first and second base.
The Tigers continued the hit parade with Ashley Applegate's single to place runners on second and third base. Kuhn smoked a two-run double into the right centerfield gap to push the LSU lead to 5-1. After a McCasland single put runners on the corners, Morgan Russell capped the frame with a RBI single to vault the Tigers ahead 6-1.
Meghan Patterson fired her third complete game in three starts and improved to 3-0 on the season. The sophomore right-hander was touched up for a first inning run on three hits. She found her rhythm and allowed only three hits the rest of the way. The Destrehan native tallied five strikeouts versus one walk.
"Meghan is a great pitcher herself and extremely talented," Torina said. "She deserves more innings than we're even able to give her because we're trying to fight to give [Rachele Fico and Brittany Mack] so many innings. [Meghan Patterson] is the future of this program. I think early on in this game, she looked a little rusty. She hasn't been on the mound and hasn't seen hitters in a while. But she cleaned it up after the first inning and ended up with a pretty nice day."
Nicholls tallied its lone run during the first inning on a Leah Andrus RBI single. The Tigers responded with the equalizer in the third inning. Langoni blasted a one-out triple off the right field fence and came around to score on a Santos sacrifice fly.
"Starting off, it's always kind of hard, but you really have to go out there ready to pitch," Patterson said. "I knew I had to settle down and get sharper with my pitches, so that actually really helped me with them scoring in the first inning."
LSU travels to face No. 2 Alabama for a three-game weekend series at Rhoads Stadium. Games times are slated for 7 p.m. [Friday - Televised by ESPNU], 1:30 p.m. [Saturday] and 1 p.m. [Sunday - Televised by Fox Sports Network].
All three games of the series will have live audio and live stats inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. The game also will be carried live Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright and Kent Lowe set to call the action.
Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsu_softball on Twitter.
Softball Postgame Quotes
LSU vs. Nicholls State - April 4, 2012
Head Coach Beth Torina
On the importance of the Nicholls game and not looking ahead to Alabama ...
"We talk so much about not doing that, but it's very difficult with such a huge series this weekend. It was even difficult for myself, and I'm a lot older than they are. We tried to play some people tonight, tried to get some freshmen some opportunities. I thought that even in the innings where we weren't scoring runs, we were still squaring things up pretty well - hitting the ball hard. We lined out of the first inning with [Juliana] Santos and we lined out of another inning [the 2nd inning] with the bases loaded. So overall, they were all right."
On Meghan Patterson's performance ...
"She's a great pitcher herself and extremely talented. She deserves more innings than we're even able to give her because we're trying to fight to give [Rachele Fico and Brittany Mack] so many innings. [Meghan Patterson] is the future of this program. I think early on in this game, she looked a little rusty. She hasn't been on the mound and hasn't seen hitters in a while. But she cleaned it up after the first inning and ended up with a pretty nice day."
On Juliana Santos stepping up and driving in runs after Ashley Langoni was walked...
"I think people are going to have to stop [walking Ashley Langoni] as much because [Juliana] Santos is swinging so well right now. She's got one of the highest batting averages on the team so I think that people are going to have to start respecting her a little more than they are right now. If they don't, she's going to continue to win ball games for us in that spot."
On the bench players stepping up ...
"It's nice to have an opportunity to play some people and get everybody prepared for a big weekend because you never know who we'll have to call on this weekend. It's nice that they got in, and it's nice that they hit some balls hard. All of them work equally as hard everyday at practice, so it's nice when they can get an opportunity."
On the upcoming series with Alabama...
"We're ready. I feel like we played great softball throughout the entire month of March. We're feeling confident, we're throwing well on the mound, we're swinging much better. I feel like we're ready for them. We're prepared. We know they're good, and we know what we're facing. We understand it's a tough opponent, and we're going to have to play our best game to get wins, but we're prepared."
On the current standing of the program...
"Honestly, I think they're getting better and better each day - what we're asking them to do. Trust is definitely something that you have to earn. You can't just walk in here and expect them to immediately trust us. I think that the more success they have and the better they do in the system, the more they're going to trust us and the more they're going to buy in. I think we'll get even stronger as a team."
Pitcher Meghan Patterson
On being patient behind Brittany Mack and Rachele Fico...
"I just knew that if I worked hard everyday in practice, Coach [Torina] would see that I'm trying my best. I knew eventually I was going to get chances. Being behind [Brittany Mack and Rachele Fico], it actually makes me better because in practice, I try my best to get everything down. I try to get spin and everything working so I can get that chance."
On her motivation to continue to improve ...
"My motivation is definitely relief. Coach [Torina] always tells me to be ready in the first inning because you never know what could happen. It happened at Cal earlier this year when I had to go in during the first inning. So from that point, I really focused on being ready for every first inning because you never know what could happen. Relief really is my focus right now, so I'm all right with that."
On finding a groove after the first inning ...
"Starting off, it's always kind of hard, but you really have to go out there ready to pitch. And [Ashley] Langoni almost made the catch, but it really got me pumped up, and I knew I had to settle down and get sharper with my pitches. So that actually really helped me with them scoring in the first inning."