ORLANDO, Fla. - The No. 11 LSU softball team had to come back on three separate occasions to snatch a 7-6 victory over Syracuse after dropping 10-2 five-inning decision to No. 10 Oregon on day one of the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic Friday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Jacee Blades turned in a 3-for-4 performance, while Allison Falcon added a 2-for-4 effort which included the game-winning, two-run double during the sixth inning to fuel a 10-hit attack for the Tigers (15-3) versus Syracuse (4-6). The three hits for Blades equaled a career-high.
"I thought the whole day was very uncharacteristic in all three phases of the game, but credit our players for going 1-1 on one of their worst days," head coach Beth Torina said. "Our slappers, A.J. (Andrews), Jacee (Blades) and Simone (Heyward), were the key to the game. They did a really good job of putting the pressure and creating a lot of havoc on their defense. Without them, we would have been in a lot of trouble."
After Blades reached via a fielder's choice, Falcon lifted a 0-2 offering that fell in for a double in-front of a diving SU right fielder Shirley Daniels. Both Andrews and Blades hustled around to cross the plate to vault LSU ahead by a 7-6 margin.
Ashley Czechner retired the Orange with a 1-2-3 frame in the seventh inning to secure the 7-6 win. She tossed the final 2.2 innings and improved to 3-0 on the season. The junior right-hander was touched up for two runs on one hit and recorded four strikeouts versus one walk.
"I was happy with Czechner's ability to come out of the bullpen and clean things up today," Torina said. "She's going to continue to get better and better. Her biggest mistake was the leadoff walk to open the sixth inning after we scratched out three runs. She bounced back and will continue to grow as she gets more comfortable at this level."
"I had so much confidence in my team that they were going to get the job on offense," Czechner said. "I gave up that home run, and I was down on myself. Falcon's hit really fired me up. I was ready to go back out there, shut the door and get the win for us because we clawed all the way back."
Syracuse broke through for the game's first run during the second inning and took advantage of three hit-batters along with a walk issued by LSU starter Meghan Patterson.
The Tigers responded with a pair of runs in the third inning. Andrews and Blades connected a pair of one-out doubles to even the ledger at 1-1. Two batters later and with two outs, Bianka Bell added a RBI single to make it 2-1.
Syracuse regained a 4-2 advantage during the fourth inning courtesy of a Veronica Grant three-run dinger. The Orange capitalized on a throwing error by third baseman Tammy Wray and made the most of the extra out.
Syracuse had an opportunity to extend its lead and loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning. Czechner entered the game and escaped the jam via a pair of ground balls to keep the score at 4-2.
LSU kept the momentum and fired back with three runs in the home half of the frame. Blades legged out an infield single. After Falcon traded spots with her following a fielder's choice, Bell coaxed a two-out walk. A passed ball enabled the runners to move up to second and third base. Rikki Alcaraz provided the equalizer with a two-run single to left centerfield. She stole second base and scored the go-ahead run on a Syracuse error.
The Orange secured a 6-5 edge in the sixth inning after Grant connected for her second dinger of the game, a two-run shot to left field.
"We always talk about passing the bat, and that hitting is contagious," Blades said. "As slappers, we did our best to put the ball on the ground and get on-base to set the table for our hitters. We had to fight and scratch to get everything we can. I was proud of how we answered back every time they retook the lead."
Game 1 - No. 10 Oregon 10, No. 11 LSU 2 (5 Innings)
Oregon (14-3) raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Ducks struck for a pair of singles to start the game and scored the game's first run after a throwing error by second baseman Allison Falcon. Alexa Peterson platted the second run on a squeeze bunt.
LSU attempted to rally and tallied consecutive singles from Tammy Wray and Sandra Simmons to open up the second inning. Oregon's Jessica Moore wiped away the threat with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched between a ground ball.
The Ducks extended its lead to 4-0 during the third inning after a Peterson RBI double followed by a Samantha Pappas RBI groundout.
Oregon dented the scoreboard for a five-spot in the fourth inning to surge ahead 9-0. The big hits for the Ducks were a Janie Takeda tallied a RBI single and a Kailee Cuico two-run homer.
LSU garnered two runs during the fifth inning to extend the game. Rikki Alcaraz and Simone Heyward reeled off one-out singles. After A.J. Andrews reached via an error, pinch hitter Dylan Supak ripped a two-run single through the right side to pull the Tigers back to 9-2.
Oregon closed out the 10-2 triumph in the bottom half of the frame. In her 3.1 frames of action, Rachele Fico surrendered a career-high nine runs, seven earned, to fall to 9-2 on the season.
"Hopefully, we can return back and be more of our normal selves tomorrow," Torina said. "We don't have to do more than what we're capable of doing and be solid. Our goal will be to come back, and hopefully walk away with a couple of victories tomorrow."
LSU returns to action Saturday versus Penn State at 11:15 a.m. CT followed by a 3:45 p.m. CT tilt with No. 14 Michigan during day two of the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. The Michigan game will have an audio webcast available for Geaux Zone subscribers at LSUsports.net/live.
Every LSU softball game will have live stats available at www.LSUsports.net/livestats. 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.