STARKVILLE, Miss. - The No. 12 LSU softball team matched a season's best and connected for a quartet of home runs en route to a 9-2 victory over Mississippi State during the rubber game of a three-game series Sunday at the MSU Softball Stadium.
With the win, the Tigers (19-5, 2-1 SEC) moved into sole possession of first place in the SEC Western Division after one weekend of conference play. LSU also blasted four home runs in a 9-1 victory at Ole Miss back on February 13.
"We were a completely different team from yesterday," head coach Beth Torina said. "We spent a lot of time thinking about our offensive approach, and Coach Dobson really zoned them in. The players did a really good job of executing the plan, and hopefully our offense understands now where they need to be. This can be a really good lesson learned for future SEC games."
LSU struck early and posted a three spot on the scoreboard in the first inning. A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades collected consecutive singles to start the frame. After an Allison Falcon sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Bianka Bell crushed a towering three-run home run over the left field scoreboard to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
"Today was definitely a team win, we knew we had to make things happen at the top of our lineup early in the game," Bell said. "We had a better plan with our at-bats after seeing their pitcher for 14 innings on Friday. I wanted to take away the inside pitch from her, drive it hard somewhere and that's what I did in the first inning."
The Tigers added three more runs during the fourth inning as Sandra Simmons and Tammy Wray connected for back-to-back dingers to push the advantage to 6-0. It marked the 16th time in program history that LSU has gone for back-to-back homers, and the first time since the Nicholls State game on March 7, 2012 when Ashley Langoni and Dylan Supak accomplished the feat.
LSU made it 8-0 on Allison Falcon's fourth roundtripper of the season, a two-run bomb to left centerfield, in the fifth inning. Andrews got on in-front of Falcon and picked up her team-leading ninth multi-hit performance of the season.
MSU's Allison Owen exited the contest and surrendered eight runs. She tallied six strikeouts against zero walks and fell to 9-3 on the season. Entering the game, Owen had only been touched up for seven total runs in 78.0 previous innings of work.
"I'm proud of how our group played all day," Torina said. "I was happy that we were able to score and continue to score. This game was important to the players. They wanted to make sure that we won the series and wanted to have an answer after getting beat the day before."
Mississippi State responded with two runs of their own in the home half of the frame. The Bulldogs made the most of an infield single, a walk and a LSU error. Heidi Shape also provided a sacrifice fly to bring the tally back to 8-2.
Rachele Fico went the distance in the circle for the Tigers. She scattered six hits and allowed two runs, one earned, to claim her 12th victory of the season. The senior right-hander registered eight Ks versus three walks. She is now eight strikeouts away from becoming the fourth pitcher in program history to reach the 700-mark for her career.
"Rachele was fantastic for us all weekend," Torina said. "I enjoy watching her pitch and happy to see her take what she worked throughout the week in the bullpen to the field."
LSU returns to the friendly confines of Tiger Park and squares off with Nicholls State. Wednesday's first pitch is on-tap for 6 p.m., and the game will carried live by Cox Sports Television. The LSU Sports Radio Network will make its season debut on Country Legends 104.9 FM, and the broadcast also will be available for Geaux Zone subscribers at LSUsports.net/live.
Fans 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.