PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Rachele Fico tossed her second career no-hitter as the No. 11 LSU softball team secured a 7-0 victory over Ohio State followed by a 6-1 win over UNLV Friday on day two of the Mary Nutter Classic held at the Big League Dreams Complex.
LSU (13-1) has collected wins in 13 of its first 14 games to match the program's best start since the 2007 squad opened the season with an identical 13-1 record. The Tigers have banged out double digit hits in three straight outings, the last time LSU accomplished that feat was April 10-15, 2009.
"Ohio State has a really good offense, but Rachele was able to shut them down," head coach Beth Torina said. "Happy anytime that someone can throw a no-hitter. It was definitely a team no-hitter. We got some great defensive plays. Offensively, we did a very good job overall. We're doing some good things swinging the bat, but there's always room for improvement."
Fico worked around a pair of walks, a hit batter and an error to improve to 8-0 on the season. It was Fico's fifth shutout of the season and second no-hitter of her career. The senior right-hander fired the program's third perfect game against Southeastern Louisiana back on February 16, 2011.
Fico wrapped up the no-hitter with her sixth strikeout of the contest. The six Ks enabled her to move past Dani Hofer (2006-09) into sole possession of fourth place on LSU's all-time list.
"Today was a team effort, my defense played great behind me," Fico said. "Ohio State was putting the bat on the ball and fouling off a lot of pitches off. I didn't have that many strikeouts. I had to go deep in counts and work hard to get the outs."
All nine starters notched hits as the Tigers racked up a season's best 14 hits versus Ohio State (7-4).LSU received multi-hit performances from A.J. Andrews, Jacee Blades, Bianka Bell and Sandra Simmons. Andrews reached base on all four of her plate appearances from the leadoff spot.
LSU opened the scoring with a Kellsi Kloss leadoff home run to centerfield during the second inning. Dylan Supak followed with a double, and Andrews was hit-by-a-pitch. Jacee Blades legged out an infield single down the first base line, and a pair of OSU throwing errors allowed two runs to score. Bell capped the frame and deposited a RBI single to left field to make it 4-0.
The Tigers tacked on single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Bell, Andrews and Simmons provided RBI singles for the final margin of 7-0.
The Buckeyes nearly busted up Fico's no-hit bid with one out in the sixth inning. Melaina Saalfeld ripped a 1-2 offering, but Allison Falcon made a diving catch going towards her left from her second base post.
Game 2 - No. 11 LSU 6, UNLV 1
LSU scored all six of its runs versus the Rebels (5-7) with two outs. Rikki Alcaraz turned in a 3-for-3 effort with two RBIs to spark the 13-hit attack. The three hits for Alcaraz were a career-best, and the two RBIs equaled a career-high.
"Rikki stepped up in a big way and really come through for us," Torina said. "She always comes up to the plate and swings hard. I was really impressed with how she was able to step into the lineup and do her job after sitting on the bench the first two games of the weekend. She's making a case to being a more permanent figure in the lineup."
With LSU trailing 1-0 in the third inning, Alcaraz laced a one-out single through the left side. Simone Heyward and Jacee Blades added singles of their own to fill the bases. Alcaraz scooted home with the equalizer on a wild pitch.
In the next inning, Alcaraz ripped a RBI single with two outs to drive home Tammy Wray to give the Tigers a 2-1 edge.
Alcaraz's second RBI single came during the sixth inning and ignited a four-run sixth inning for LSU. She platted pinch runner Alex Boulet, who entered the game for Wray after she reached base via a UNLV fielding error.
"The key for me is to go up to the plate with confidence all the time," Alcaraz said. "I know I had to go in there and make the most of the opportunity that Coach (Torina) gave me. I think having teammates telling you that you can do it helps a lot. I was happy I was able to get some hits and score some runs."
Blades claimed her third hit of the game with a two-run single, and Allison Falcon finished off the 6-1 victory with a RBI single.
In the circle, Ashley Czechner sat down 12 of the final 14 batters she faced and moved to 2-0 for the season. She was touched up for one run on four hits and registered a season-high eight strikeouts versus five walks.
UNLV took advantage of two walks and two hit batters by Czechner to grab a 1-0 edge during the first inning. It marked the first time that the Tigers have surrendered a first-inning run on the season.
"That was by far the best that Ashley has pitched this season," Torina said. "She really started pitching towards the end of the game instead of just trying to throw strikes. That's the Ashley Czechner I was expecting to have. I was very impressed by her performance, and hopefully this is the type of game that can get her on a roll."
LSU faces off against No. 14 Arizona on day three of the Mary Nutter Classic. Saturday's first pitch is slated for 7 p.m. CT from the Big Leagues Dreams Complex in Palm Springs.
Every LSU softball game will have live stats available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsusoftball on Twitter.
LSU's next home game will be Wednesday, March 13 versus Nicholls State with a 6 p.m. first pitch. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net or on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Season tickets also are on-sale for $75 and additional ticket information is available at www.LSUtix.net.