COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 13 LSU softball team used RBIs from seven players which included A.J. Andrews’ go-ahead RBI single during the eighth inning to emerge with a 9-6 victory over No. 10 Texas A&M Saturday as 1,959 fans gathered at the Aggie Softball Complex.
With victory, LSU (34-9, 10-4 SEC) evened the three-game series with the Aggies (34-8, 6-7 SEC) and maintained sole possession of first place in the SEC Western Division standings.
“Our players have shown fight all season long, and we’re fortunate to have a lot of it,” head coach Beth Torina said. “Our players are very mentally tough. You’re never safe with A&M’s offense, that’s for sure. They’re capable of doing a lot of amazing things. Our players stayed within the offensive plan a lot better, stayed discipline and got the timely hits today. They did a great job of manufacturing runs and used a lot of different way to score runs.”
After Texas A&M rallied for a quartet of runs in the seventh inning to even the tally at 6-6, the Tigers answered right back with three runs during the eight inning.
Tammy Wray drew one of her three walks to start the uprising. Pinch runner Alex Boulet was inserted into the game and moved to second base on Rikki Alcarez’s sacrifice bunt. The Tigers received a Simone Heyward slap single to put runners on corners.
Andrews followed with a bunt single down the first base line to plate Boulet after Heyward stole second base to vault the Tigers ahead, 7-6. On a 2-1 offering, Jacee Blades cranked a RBI single to right field to extend the LSU lead to 8-6. Allison Falcon was hit-by-a-pitch to fill the bases, and Sandra Simmons was issued a four-pitch free pass to make it 9-6.
“We were so pumped up going into today’s game, and we knew that we needed to string those hits together to win after yesterday’s tough loss,” Andrews said. “We knew Texas A&M is a great team. When they did come back, it fired us up to get those runs back that we gave up. Jacee and I really feed off of each other. I’m so excited when she gets a hit, and I know she feels the same way about me. We want each other to do well, and I think that helps us out a lot.”
Rachele Fico racked up four strikeouts and fired two frames of one-hit relief to improve to 21-7 on the season. The senior right-hander mowed down the side around a two-out Emily Albus triple in the eighth inning.
“Rachele did an excellent job of shutting the door when her team needed her the most,” Torina said. “It’s good to see her come in during a relief situation and be able to handle the situation. I think we’re getting back on the right track with where she needs to be.”
LSU grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the second inning as the Tigers scored both of their runs courtesy of bases loaded walks drawn by Wray and Alcaraz. Falcon knocked a leadoff double to left field, Simmons reached on a fielder’s choice and Kloss drew a walk to load the bases.
The Aggies charged back with two runs of their own during the home half of the inning. Jenna Stark put A&M on the scoreboard, and ripped a solo home run to left field. Cali Lanphear and Amber Garza connected walks before Taran Tyler provided the equalizer with a slow-rolling single through the middle.
The Aggies filled the bases after an Albus walk, but Simmons made a play on a Cassie Tysarczyk hard ground ball on the run going towards the 3-4 hole. Fully extended, Simmons dove and touched the first base bag for the third out to keep the ledger at 2-2.
LSU responded with a two-out rally in the third inning. Simmons’ walk and stolen base set up Kellsi Kloss’ RBI single off the centerfield fence which enabled the Tigers to regain a 3-2 edge.
The Tigers batted around the lineup and tacked on three more runs during the fourth inning. The bottom of the order ignited the rally as Wray walk followed by Alcaraz and Heyward singles to fill the sacks.
Andrews and Bianka Bell collected RBIs on ground balls to make it 5-2. For Bell, it was her 10th straight game with a RBI. The program record was previously held by Sara Fitzgerald and Stephanie Hill. They drove home RBIs in nine consecutive games during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, respectively. Simmons forced in another run on a bases loaded walk to push the LSU advantage to 6-2.
Ashley Czechner posted four consecutive zeros and notched five strikeouts her third time through the powerful A&M lineup. She came away with a no decision in her six-plus innings of action.
The Aggies rallied for a quartet runs with no outs in the seventh inning. The key hits were a Nicole Morgan two-run double off the right field fence followed by a Mel Dumezich two-run dinger to straight-away centerfield to draw A&M even at 6-6.
“Ashley threw great once again and did a great job of keeping them off-balanced for a majority of the game,” Torina said. “She’s really battled, and I wanted to give her a chance to win the ballgame. She was still throwing good pitches and her misses were really close. A&M is a tough offensive team to face for seven innings.
Lauren Ainsley was tagged with the loss and fell to 10-3 on the season. She pitched an inning-plus to start the game before giving way to Dumezich for three frames. The sophomore right-hander returned to the circle and sat down nine consecutive LSU batters before surrendering a three-run eighth.
“It’s definitely going to be a battle to win the series tomorrow,” Torina said. “It’s going to take us being mentally tough again. We’re going to have to continue to do a majority of the detailed things that we did today to be successful.”
The rubber game of the three-game series is slated for Saturday at 12:30 p.m., and the game will be televised live by Fox Sports Network, www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app with Tom Werme and Cheri Kempf set to call the action. The game also will be broadcasted by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge and can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway will have the radio call.
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.
LSU’s next home series will be April 19-21 when Missouri makes its first SEC trip to Tiger Park. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net or on-site at the Tiger Park Ticket Office starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Friday’s series opener is the program’s “Pack the Park” game with $1 general admission tickets, while Saturday’s contest marks the team’s second annual “Strikeout Ovarian Cancer” event.