GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Brittany Mack fired a four-hit shutout as the No. 23 LSU softball team grinded out a 1-0 victory to earn a split of a SEC doubleheader versus No. 2 Florida Tuesday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
It marked LSU's (33-16, 14-8 SEC) first win over Florida (42-6, 19-3 SEC) in Gainesville since the 2005 season. The Tigers also secured their second win over the No. 2 team in the nation under head coach Beth Torina. LSU knocked off then No. 2 Alabama by a 3-2 margin on April 7.
"It was a great day from top to bottom," head coach Beth Torina said. "I thought we played LSU softball. We manufactured runs on offense, played solid defensively and both pitchers were dominant. I didn't think we got one break in the first game. That one could have easily gone our way. If we continue to play with this type of effort and this level of intensity we played with today, I will be extremely happy, and we will be in a very good spot at the end of the season."
Mack notched eight strikeouts versus two walks to improve to 14-8 on the season. She escaped a bases loaded jam with one out during the sixth inning. The senior right-hander dug deep and forced Bailey Castro along with Ensley Gammel to pop out and ground out in succession.
"The key for Brittany was the sixth inning," Torina said. "We've been asking her all season to stop the bleeding when there are runners on-base. That is something Rachele has done a wonderful job with, and we've asked Brittany to do the same thing. Give credit to Brittany for stepping up, having a big performance and making the critical pitches when she needed them the most."
Florida also put a pair of base runners on in the seventh inning aided. Mack regrouped to record the final out of the game in-style. She fanned Sami Fagan to secure the 2-1 triumph.
"My goal was to try and establish strike one because I saw it worked so well for Fico in the first game," Mack said. "However, I wasn't able to do that consistently especially early in the game. I had to battle back more times than I wanted to. At the end of the day, it's a great feeling to pick up a win against a very talented Florida team."
The Tigers platted the contest's lone run during the second inning. With one out, Ashley Applegate worked her way back from a 1-2 count to a 3-2 situation. She proceeded to rip the payoff pitch into a triple to the right centerfield gap.
Two batters later, Applegate scored on Lauren Houston's RBI single with two outs. It was Houston's first RBI since the Oklahoma State game back on March 3.
"Ashley did a fantastic job and had strong at-bats all across the board," Torina said. "She was a lot more aggressive and had a better mentality at the plate. Lauren stepped up, and I tell the players all the time to be ready to hit when they step into the batter's box. There was no question that Lauren was ready and did that."
Game 1 - No. 2 Florida 2, No. 23 LSU 1 [8 Innings]
LSU carried a 1-0 advantage down the final strike in the seventh inning before Ensley Gammel connected for a solo home run on a 1-2 pitch.
The Gators used a Michelle Moultrie RBI double that bounced off the chalk down the left field line to plate Jess Damico, who reached on a hit-by-pitch for the 2-1 extra-inning victory.
Rachele Fico turned in a masterful performance and equaled a season's best with 11 strikeouts. She limited the potent Florida lineup to a pair of hits in the first six frames.
LSU appeared to grab a 1-0 advantage in the fifth inning. Tammy Wray cranked a leadoff single through the middle, and pinch runner Alex Boulet alertly scooted to third base on Morgan Russell's ground out to the catcher.
Boulet scampered home on Dylan Supak's sacrifice fly, but home plate umpire Cindi Brunot ruled that Boulet left third base early after a highly-contested appeal by Florida head coach Tim Walton.
LSU broke through for the game's official first run during the sixth inning. Ashley Applegate coaxed a leadoff walk and advanced to second base on a Wray sacrifice bunt. That set the table for pinch hitter Kailey McCasland, who delivered a clutch RBI single to put the Tigers ahead by a 1-0 margin.
"We fought hard during that first game, but there were some things that didn't go our way," Applegate said. "Even though we weren't successful in the end, we knew we had to have a short memory and that we were capable to beat them in the second game."
LSU wraps up the home portion of its schedule and welcomes No. 12 Georgia for a SEC weekend series. Game times are slated for 6 p.m. [Friday], 4 p.m. [Saturday] and 1 p.m. [Sunday]. Following Sunday's contest, LSU will honor the eight members of its senior class with a special ceremony.
All three games of the series will have live audio and live stats inside the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net/live. 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.
The final two games of the series will be televised on CST with Lyn Rollins and Yvette Girouard serving as the announcing team, while video of the series opener will be streamed on www.LSUsports.net/live.
Fans 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.
The Tiger Park Ticket Booth will open 90 minutes prior to first pitch. Fans can purchase tickets on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Tickets also are available online at www.LSUtix.net.
The LSU Athletics Ticket Office continues to urge season ticket holders to be cautious when separating their bar-coded tickets. The barcode must be attached to the ticket when arriving at the gate for scanning purposes upon entrance to Tiger Park. If the barcode detaches, season ticket holders must stop by the LSU Athletics Ticket Office on the first floor of the Athletics/Administration Building for a reprint of their tickets.