BATON ROUGE - The No. 10 LSU softball team picked up two more wins over Virginia (4-0) and Memphis (5-4) on day two of the Purple & Gold Challenge Saturday at Tiger Park.
Rachele Fico fired 8.2 shutout innings fueled by 12 strikeouts against one walk and collected both wins in the circle to run her record to 6-0 for the season.
Bianka Bell secured a pair of multi-hit efforts which included the game-tying RBI single with two outs during the seventh inning of LSU's comeback win over Memphis.
"They did a good job all across the board," head coach Beth Torina said. "I was pretty confident they were going to find a way. I didn't know how they were going to do it, but I was confident. I think being in that type of a spot and showing that we can come back from being in a deficit down to our last out will help in the long run."
After an Allison Falcon popup and with LSU down to its final out, Bianka Bell came up with a clutch RBI single through the right side to even the tally at 4-4. On the throw to the plate, Bell and Blades advanced to second and third base.
"I was just thinking stay relaxed, forget the last two at-bats that I had, just try to make contact and put the ball in play," Bell said. "That way our quick runners can come in and score. When I got the pitch, I swung. I made contact, and it found a hole."
Four pitches later, Blades scampered home with the winning run on a wild pitch which gave LSU a 5-4 walkoff victory.
Rachele Fico garnered the win in relief and retired all five batters she faced. The senior right-hander improved to 6-0 on the season and is eight strikeouts shy of eclipsing Dani Hofer (2006-09) for fifth place on program's all-time list.
"This team has a lot of fight and a lot of heart," Fico said. "I knew we were going to win. I didn't doubt it in my mind for a second. This team is so capable, one through nine. I think the ability of our hitters to put a lot of pressure on their pitchers has been the key. It was just a great team effort.
LSU built a 3-0 lead and dented the scoreboard during each of the first two innings. It marked the sixth time that LSU has scored a first-inning run, and the Tigers have outscored their opponents by an 18-0 margin this season.
Andrews was hit-by-a-pitch and Falcon provided a single to open up the first inning. Two batters later, Tammy Wray delivered a RBI single with two outs to centerfield for the game's first run.
During the second inning, Andrews tacked on RBI single to score Lauren Houston, who reached on a leadoff walk. Jacee Blades added a sacrifice fly to drive in Rikki Alcaraz, who reached to make it 3-0.
Memphis charged back with a pair of runs in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. Morgan Mosby, who went 3-for-4, belted a two-run triple followed by Amber Lindhal's two-run double which gave Memphis a 4-3 edge.
Game 1 - No. 10 LSU 4, Virginia 0
LSU made the most of an extra out during the first inning of the Virginia game. Allison Falcon struck out on a pitch in the dirt for what seemed to be the third out of the frame, but a throwing error by the UVA catcher enabled Falcon to reach first base safely.
With one out in the third inning, Bell smashed a 2-2 offering for an opposite field home run that bounced off one of the flag poles in right centerfield to push the LSU advantage to 3-0.
The Tigers tacked on an insurance run during the sixth inning. Wray knocked a leadoff single to centerfield, while Simmons completed her three RBI performance by cranking a RBI double to plate pinch runner Alex Boulet for the final margin of 4-0.
"Sandra has done a great job," Torina said. "I feel very confident when she is at the plate. She made a lot of things happen for us. She puts the ball in play very consistently, and she puts the ball in play very hard. She is always going to make something happen."
Fico tossed a four-hitter to complete her fourth shutout and move to 5-0 on the young season. She racked up 11 strikeouts, her third straight start with double digit Ks. At one point, Fico retired 12 consecutive batters before allowing a two-out walk in the seventh inning.
LSU wraps up the Purple & Gold Challenge Sunday against Nicholls State. First pitch is on-tap for 3 p.m. after the first two games of the day pit Memphis and North Dakota State along with Virginia and Nicholls State beginning at 10 a.m.
Every game of the Purple & Gold Challenge will have live stats available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. 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 @lsusoftball on Twitter.
The Tiger Park Ticket Office will open one hour prior to the first game of each day. Fans can purchase tickets on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Season tickets are on-sale for $75 and additional ticket information is available at www.LSUtix.net.
LSU Softball Post Game Quotes - February 16, 2013
No. 10 LSU vs. Virginia & Memphis
HEAD COACH BETH TORINA
On the comeback win over Memphis ...
"They did a good job all across the board. The two slappers set the table, A.J. (Andrews) and Jacee (Blades) really came through for us. I was pretty confident they were going to find a way. I didn't know how they were going to do it, but I was confident. I think being in that type of a spot and showing that we can come back from being in a deficit down to our last out will help in the long run."
On Bianka Bell's performance...
"She is doing a lot of the things we expected her to do. I think the first weekend she had a little bit of nerves and put a little bit of extra pressure on herself. I think she is starting to relax, find herself and see where she fits into this lineup."
On Rachele Fico being used in relief against Memphis ...
"I hated having to go to her in that situation, but that is the spot we put ourselves in by not scoring enough runs and not being to handle their offense. Anytime we put her on the mound, I feel good about our chances. When we tied it up there in that last inning, I felt confident that she would hold them for as long as we needed her to."
On Sandra Simmons ...
"She has done a great job. I feel very confident when she is at the plate. She made a lot of things happen for us. She puts the ball in play very consistently, and she puts the ball in play very hard. She is always going to make something happen."
On tomorrow's game against Nicholls State...
"We are playing are an in-state rival. We have to make sure we show up with our best effort. We expect a quality opponent in Nicholls tomorrow, and we are going in with our best effort."
PITCHER RACHELE FICO
On the comeback win over Memphis ...
"This team has a lot of fight and a lot of heart. I knew we were going to win. I didn't doubt it in my mind for a second. This team is so capable, one through nine. I think the ability of our hitters to put a lot of pressure on their pitchers has been the key. Tammy Wray was up to bat when she threw the wild pitch. It is because you don't want to give her anything good to hit. When you have a hitter like Tammy who has so much power, you have to be careful. I think that got to her. Bianka (Bell) came up and got the first RBI for us. A.J. (Andrews) and Jacee (Blades) set the table for her. It was just a great team effort.
On pitching in relief ...
"I knew that I had to stay within myself, hit my spots, and do what I am supposed to do. Coach (Torina) does a great job of calling pitches. I trust her calls all the time. I know if I put the ball where she wants it, we are usually in a very good position. I was just trying to get outs. I knew I had my team behind me to back me up, and we came through with it today."
INFIELDER BIANKA BELL
On her game-tying RBI single
"I was just thinking stay relaxed, forget the last two at-bats that I had, just try to make contact and put the ball in play. That way our quick runners can come in and score. When I got the pitch, I swung. I made contact, and it found a hole."
On her performance from the first weekend to the second weekend ...
"The first tournament, I wasn't doing very well. I wasn't really happy with myself. I had to come back and put in some extra cuts in practice. I needed to hit more. I need to go off with the coaches and do the extra things to get back to where I was. It definitely paid off. I am not satisfied yet. I still want to keep doing more for my team."