STARKVILLE, Miss. - Rachele Fico turned in a pitching performance for the ages and racked up 22 strikeouts to not only set a program single-game record but equal a SEC single-game mark as the LSU softball team garnered a 1-0 victory in 14 innings over Mississippi State Friday during the SEC opener for both teams at the MSU Softball Stadium.
LSU (18-4, 1-0 SEC) scored the game's only run when A.J. Andrews lifted a 0-1 offering over the centerfield fence for her first career home run.
Fico sat down 25 of the last 27 batters she faced and wrapped up the 1-0 win in style with her 22nd strikeout of the contest. Former Tennessee All-American Monica Abbott also picked up 22 strikeouts during a 1-0 win in 10 innings versus Florida back on March 19, 2007.
The previous LSU single-game mark was set by former All-American Britni Sneed with 19 Ks versus Oklahoma at the 2001 Women's College World Series.
"Rachele provided one of the most gutsy performances I've ever witnessed," head coach Beth Torina said. "She was fantastic, battled back from last weekend and fought through feeling under the weather. She didn't have a ton of confidence coming out of Orlando but was able to grind out for a big win."
"I was in a situation today where I woke up and was feeling under the weather," Fico said. "I wanted to do everything I could for my team. This is my team, and I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else. I'm always going to give them everything I have. I was coming off a weekend where it wasn't my best performance. My goal was to play as hard as I could, and I get to get back on the right foot for them. I took it one pitch at a time, thought about making quality pitches and playing my game."
After starting the game 0-for-5 at the plate, Andrews smacked a pitch up in the zone. The ball carried and just cleared the centerfield fence past MSU's Jessica Offutt leaping attempt.
"I wanted to make an adjustment at the plate," Andrews said. "I was making solid contact with my slapping, but I was hitting the ball right at them. I decided to swing away in my last at-bat. It worked out for me. I looked up and saw the ball go over the fence as I rounded second base. I got really excited and was so happy when I touched home plate."
"Good for A.J. that she was able to make an adjustment at the plate," Torina said. "That's what we need to take away from this game. Her adjustment was to go away from the slapping and swing full. It worked out for her in a big way."
"I knew A.J. could do it, there was no doubt in my mind," Fico said "It was such an awesome feeling to see that ball go over the fence. She is such a talented player and a gamer. We're lucky to have her on our team. She always works so hard, and I love feeding off of her energy."
Mississippi State (15-5, 0-1 SEC) nearly scored a run during the second inning. After Jessica Cooley drew a one-out walk, Erin Nesbit knocked a chopper off of Fico's glove. The ball bounced into left field, and Cooley scampered towards third base. An errant throw by LSU left fielder Jacee Blades allowed Cooley to head towards the plate. LSU third baseman Tammy Wray collected the ball and fired to catcher Lauren Houston, who applied the tag to keep the score tied at 0-0. With Nesbit at third base, Fico got Shelby Fisher to line out to first baseman Sandra Simmons and end the threat.
LSU put the leadoff runner in the 10th inning courtesy of a Bianka Bell leadoff single. Pinch runner Alex Boulet advanced to second base on Tammy Wray's sacrifice bunt and moved to third base on a field pickoff attempt by MSU catcher Logan Foulks.
Allison Owen worked her way out of the jam and induced consecutive pop outs to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard. Owen was the tough-luck loser and fell to 9-2 for the season. The reigning two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week tallied 10 strikeouts against zero walks.
"Every win is a big win when you're playing in the nation's toughest conference," Torina said. "We're going to enjoy the win and plan to have to fight hard tomorrow."
Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. with a live audio webcast available for Geaux Zone subscribers at LSUsports.net/live.
Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live stats at www.LSUsports.net/livestats along with live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsusoftball on Twitter.