OXFORD, Miss. - The No. 10 LSU softball team blasted four home runs and used another Rachele Fico gem in the circle to claim a 9-1 six-inning victory over Ole Miss Wednesday in a rare non-conference meeting at the Ole Miss Complex.
LSU's (5-1) four homers in a game were the most since the Tigers connected for a quartet of long balls against Fordham on Feb. 26, 2011 at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. Seven of LSU's eight RBIs from Lauren Houston, Kellsi Kloss, Sandra Simmons and Tammy Wray came via the home run.
"It was exciting to see that type of performance from our offense," head coach Beth Torina said. "We played it and treated it like it was a SEC game to set the tone for that part of the schedule later in the season. Even more exciting was to see our players make an adjustment at the plate after being fooled by their pitcher (Shelby Jo Fenter) the first time through the lineup. It was great for their confidence and for them to understand that they are capable of doing that."
Houston turned in a 2-for-2 performance with two RBIs, while Wray also added two hits and equaled her career-best with three RBIs.
"It felt awesome, we really fed off of each other," Wray said. "We were going out there with confidence and just having fun. First time through the lineup, we struggled a little bit. We knew we had to adjust, and we had to try and drive the inside pitches as hard as we could as right-handed batters. We did that, and it was a good feeling."
Fico, the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, racked up 11 strikeouts against zero walks. She was touched up for one run on three hits and improved to 3-0 on the season. The senior right-hander also moved to within five Ks of becoming the fifth pitcher in program history to reach 600 career strikeouts.
"Rachele did a phenomenal job in the circle, and there was no question that she was in control of the game," Torina said. "She did make one mistake which she paid for. However, she's the type of pitcher that's going to continue to keep working hard and making adjustments."
Houston's solo shot gave the Tigers a 1-0 edge during the third inning. It was her first round tripper going back to the game at No. 1 Georgia on March 23, 2011.
Ole Miss (2-6) responded in the fourth inning to even the tally at 1-1. The Rebels pieced together a Haley Culley infield single with an Allison Brown RBI double into the right centerfield gap. With runners on second and third base, Fico mowed down Erinn Jayjohn to keep the score all square at 1-1
LSU regained the momentum right away and charged back with two runs during the fifth inning. Simmons belted an opposite field dinger to left centerfield for her first career hit and pushed the Tigers back ahead, 2-1.
Wray cranked a double and Houston was hit-by-a-pitch to put runners on the corners with one out. The Tigers executed a double steal, and Wray slide home safely head first to extend LSU's advantage to 3-1.
"It was wonderful for our team to be able to have an answer after Ole Miss scored and tied the game," Torina said. "I like seeing that especially from a freshman (Simmons) of understanding the importance of getting that done and giving us back the lead right there in that moment. Sandra is going to have a lot more hits like that, she's a special player."
LSU busted the game open and tallied six two-out runs in the sixth inning. Wray cleared the bases and cranked a towering three-run bomb to make it 6-1. Two batters later, Houston tacked on a RBI single to plate Katie Guillory who reached on a walk and advanced to second base on an illegal pitch. Kloss put the finishing touches on the 9-1 triumph with a two-run pinch hit homer.
"The offense was incredible," Fico said. "They came in, made a statement and did exactly what they needed to do. They were taking some great swings up there, and it showed. Four long balls in a game is such a relief as a pitcher. They've been working really hard, and they deserve that kind of result."
LSU plays host to its second tournament in as many weekends as the Tigers welcome Memphis, Nicholls State, North Dakota State and Virginia this weekend for the Purple & Gold Challenge.
Live stats for every LSU softball game will be available on www.LSUsports.net/livestats. Fans also can receive live in-game updates by following LSU softball on its 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.