BATON ROUGE – Sandra Simmons delivered a walkoff RBI single to left field with two outs to vault the No. 12 LSU softball team to a dramatic 3-2 eight-inning victory over No. 4 Alabama Thursday in front of a raucous 1,917 fans at Tiger Park.
With the win, LSU (38-11, 13-6 SEC) moved a game ahead of the Crimson Tide (40-8, 12-7 SEC) in the SEC Western Division standings. The Tigers have won six straight home decisions over Alabama going back to the 2008 season. The 1,917 fans was the fifth-largest crowd in program history.
Rachele Fico went the distance for LSU in the circle and improved to 23-9 on the season. She allowed two runs on six hits and picked up two strikeouts versus four walks. The senior right-hander is now six Ks away from passing fellow All-American Emily Turner for third place on LSU’s all-time list.
“It was really exciting,” head coach Beth Torina said. “I’ll start off by saying Simone (Heyward) did a great job of starting us off and putting the ball in play. The slappers are such tough outs. They did exactly what we needed them to do. It was good for Sandra (Simmons) to come through. The freshmen were awesome tonight. Kellsi (Kloss) and Sandra were the heroes tonight.”
Simmons’ heroics were set up by a Heyward leadoff infield single on a chopper to shortstop. LSU kept the rally going as A.J. Andrews drew a four-pitch walk. Jacee Blades reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners. Alabama elected to fill the bases and issued an intentional walk to Bell.
Two batters later, Simmons cranked a 1-2 offering that defected off the glove off a diving Danae Hays from her shortstop post and squirted into left field which enabled Heyward to race home with the game-winner.
“I was seeing her (Jackie Traina) well all night,” Simmons said. “I knew it was my chance to end this game. We wanted to be done with it. After I started having my intelligence to get on top of the ball more, I knew I could produce it. I had nerves, but good nerves to where I knew I could do it. I just wanted to be the one to end it.”
Alabama had an opportunity to take the lead during the top of the 8th inning. The Crimson Tide loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. However, Fico buckled down and got Hays to foul out which kept the score knotted at 2-2.
“That is one thing this team is really good about,” Torina said. “That is what I just told them. They never lost hope. They never had a doubt. They never second-guessed themselves. They have a ton of fight and I think that is the best quality this team has.”
LSU grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the fourth inning. After making a jumping catch to end an Alabama threat during the third inning, Allison Falcon coaxed a one out walk. Two batters later, Kloss connected for a two-run homer, her fifth of the season, to straight-away centerfield on a 3-1 pitch.
Fico sat down the first eight Alabama hitters she faced. She added another run of eight consecutive batters retired ignited by the Falcon catch in the third inning.
Down to their final out, the Crimson Tide pieced together back-to-back singles from Jadyn Spencer and Leona Lafaele. Hays was plunked by an 0-2 pitch, while Andrea Hawkins and Kayla Braud tacked on consecutive walks to even the tally at 2-2. Fico regained her form and snagged a Haylie McCleney line drive back to the circle.
Alabama’s Jackie Traina was tagged with the loss and dropped to 17-5 on the season. She was touched up for three runs on seven hits. She added three strikeouts versus four walks.
“My team had my back tonight big time,” Fico said. “In the seventh inning, I got a little too anxious. We were able to get out of it, and we came back strong. We kept them off the scoreboard. I did everything I could to give my team a chance to score a run for us. We really came up big with it tonight, and it was an awesome team effort.”
Game two of the series is set for Friday at 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge. The radio broadcast and live video can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribers at www.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.
LSU Softball Postgame Quotes – April 25, 2013
No. 12 LSU vs. No. 4 Alabama
HEAD COACH BETH TORINA
On tonight’s win over Alabama…
“It was really exciting. I’ll start off by saying Simone Heyward did a great job of starting us off and putting the ball in play. The slappers are such tough outs. They did exactly what we needed them to do. It was good for Sandra (Simmons) to come through. The freshmen were awesome tonight. Kellsi (Kloss) and Sandra were the heroes tonight.”
On the intensity of tonight’s game versus Alabama…
“That is one thing this team is really good about. That is what I just told them. They never lost hope. They never had a doubt. They never second-guessed themselves. They have a ton of fight and I think that is the best quality this team has.”
On Rachele Fico’s pitching effort…
“I thought Rachele did a great job, and the majority of the game was one of her best performances. I would have liked her to get the last out a little bit easier, but I think we will make that adjustment for next time. I was happy that we were so solid for six and two thirds.”
On tonight’s offensive performance…
“I thought they had great at-bats from the very beginning. Even our outs were hard-hit balls. We didn’t have a ton of strikeouts. Against a great pitcher like Alabama’s Jackie Traina, I think that was pretty amazing. I was happy with our approach.”
On game two of the series tomorrow …
“We definitely have to show up again, and we have to fight. They are obviously going to bring a lot at us. We just have to make sure to bring our ‘A’ game. Hopefully, we are prepared for both of their pitchers. The key for us is to be able to go out there and do our job again.”
P RACHELE FICO
On her pitching performance tonight…
“My team had my back tonight big time. In the seventh inning, I got a little too anxious. We were able to get out of it, and we came back strong. We kept them off the scoreboard. I did everything I could to give my team a chance to score a run for us. We really came up big with it tonight, and it was an awesome team effort.”
On her keys, and the defensive coming up with big plays…
“My biggest focus was getting ahead in the count. I think that got away from us towards the end. We were able to make big outs when we needed to. The defense played spectacular behind me. When they put the ball in play, we were able to come up and make plays when we needed to. I am just so proud of my team. I can’t say enough good things about them. It was so awesome. “
On the seventh inning …
“I think I got a little over anxious and excited. I wasn’t throwing the pitches I needed to in those situations. My team came to me in the circle. They calmed me down and told me to settle down. They were able to relax me a little bit. That was big. It is huge when you have a defensive player who comes to the circle on her own and can say the right thing to a pitcher to calm them down and play within themselves.”
On Bianka Bell being a team player…
“The future is so bright for Bianka Bell. I can’t say enough about that kid. She is so awesome, and she is such a competitor. She works so hard, and she wants to do so well. That combination is something that makes great athletes. I can’t wait to see what she continues to do with her career here. I am so glad she is on my team, and I don’t have to pitch to her. “
1B SANDRA SIMMONS
On delivering in the clutch for her team …
“I was seeing her (Jackie Traina) well all night. I knew it was my chance to end this game. We wanted to be done with it. After I started having my intelligence to get on top of the ball more, I knew I could produce it. I had nerves, but good nerves to where I knew I could do it. I just wanted to be the one to end it.”
On her emotions after her game-winning hit …
“It was excitement. I just knew it was Simone (Heyward). Without her, nothing would have happened or we would have still been at second. Who knows if we would have even scored on that hit?”
On the importance of winning Game one of the series …
“It’s so important with all of our SEC games. It gets us a little bit more relaxed to where we can come out in game two and not be as tense when we have that first win under our belt. It gives us that room to breathe a little bit. Even though we have that one game, we’re not done. We still need to come out hard on Friday and Saturday, get those wins as well and stay on top.”
On Rachele Fico’s performance …
“She did amazing tonight. In that one inning, we pressed a little bit where we knew she could have just trusted us. We trusted her throughout the night.”