BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU Tiger softball team scored three big runs in the bottom half of the fourth thanks to back-to-back home runs from Kellsi Kloss and Allison Falcon, while freshman pitcher Baylee Corbello earned her second consecutive complete-game shutout to defeat the Northwestern Wildcats 4-0 in game one of the 2014 Tiger Invitational for LSU.
LSU (5-2) produced just four hits against the Wildcats (4-2), but made all of them count as Falcon accounted for two of the four, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored, while Kloss went 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Sahvanna Jaquish had the only other hit for the Tigers on the night, scoring once.
Although Corbello didn’t reach double-digit strikeouts for the third straight game, she was able to work out of some sticky situations late thanks to some help from the defense, scattering four hits with eight strikeouts and six walks. The Lake Charles, La., native allowed two hits to the first two batters of the game and did not give up the final two until the sixth.
“She is doing a great job,” head coach Beth Torina said. “We will work to eliminate some of the walks, continue working ahead of hitters, and having the strikeout numbers she has been having.”
With very little opportunities after the first few innings, it looked like the Tigers were once again going to leave one stranded as Bianka Bell got hit to reach first base with two outs in the fourth. Instead, Kloss reared back and cranked one over the fence in center to give LSU the 2-0 lead.
On the very next at-bat, and with two outs still on the board, the Tigers got another big spark as Falcon took a 3-2 count into the seventh pitch in the showdown and drilled a shot over the fence in left field for the back-to-back jacks putting LSU up 3-0 over the Wildcats.
It was the 19th time in team history that teammates connected for consecutive home runs in a game, as the 2013 team did it twice.
“I think that is one of the best adjustments I have seen this team make in a long time,” Torina said. “I was really happy with that. They stepped up and made the adjustment. It showed right away.”
Corbello ran into her biggest hurdle in the top of the sixth inning, as Northwestern put two on with one out. After a pop fly to Blades at short, she gave up her first hit since the first inning to put the first on, with the Wildcats getting an infield single to put two on. Fortunately, a fly ball to center kept the runners at bay for the second out, with Corbello getting a big strikeout to end the inning and keep the shutout intact.
The freshman made it thrilling again in the final inning, walking the first batter of the frame to put one on. A fielder’s choice got the lead runner out at second for the second out, but another walk put two back on to put the pressure back on. All of it diffused on the very next at bat as Corbello got her final strikeout to close the door and seal the win for LSU.
Game Two: LSU 14, George Washington 4 (5 innings)
After hitting her first home run of the season earlier in the afternoon, redshirt senior infielder Allison Falcon put the No. 21 LSU Tiger Softball team up for good with a grand slam home run in her second at-bat of the second inning in the midst of a nine-run explosion to lead LSU past George Washington 14-4 in five innings to close day one of the 2014 Tiger Invitational.
On the strength of three multiple run innings, LSU (6-2) scored all 14 runs on nine hits while taking 10 walks against George Washington (0-7), as Ashley Czechner earned her third win of the season allowing four runs, three earned, on five hits with six strikeouts and four walks.
Falcon was one of the three Tiger batters with multi-RBI efforts, as she set a career high with all four coming on her bomb in the second, finishing 2-for-2 with two runs scored. Simone Heyward drove in three and scored once, going 1-for-2, while A.J. Andrews was 1-for-1 with two RBI and two runs scored. Eight different LSU hitters registered at least one base knock on the night, as Alex Boulet, Jacee Blades, Sandra Simmons, Alayna Falcon and Constance Quinn each had one.
“I was actually thinking just to do something small like get a single,” she said. “I just had to see what kind of pitch I was going to get and do what I can with it. On the second homerun, I just wanted to get a couple more assurance runs for (Ashley) Czechner.”
After giving up a run to the Colonials in the first inning, the Tigers turned around and in the bottom half of that very same inning plated two runs with no hits thanks to GW miscues. A walk to Andrews opened the inning, as she would go on to steal second base after a strikeout to Blades. She would wind up on third after a passed ball. A walk to Simmons put runners at the corners, as she would goad the Colonial catcher into overthrowing second base allowing Andrews to score to make it 1-1 and advance Simmons to third.
Simmons gave LSU the 2-1 lead after scoring on a wild pitch with only one out on the board for the Tigers. Unfortunately, consecutive ground outs ended the LSU inning.
LSU broke through in a big way in the very next inning, getting a two-RBI single by Andrews to go along with hits from Falcon and Simmons to start to move ahead comfortably. But the inning really belonged to Falcon who came up to bat for the second time and went to a full count before launching a shot over the Berm in left to give LSU an 11-1 advantage. LSU scored all nine of its runs on just four hits in the inning, with six walks by George Washington pitching.
After a scoreless inning for LSU in the third while George Washington got two back in their half of that inning to make it 11-3, the Tiger offense came back to life, led by a bases clearing triple by Heyward to score Quinn and Alayna Falcon to make it 13-3. Boulet earned her RBI on the very next play as she singled to left scoring the speedy Heyward to put the Tigers back up 11.
“This night was definitely an example of how contagious hitting can be,” Allison Falcon said. “We got a couple runs, and I just wanted to keep the bat going and keep passing the bat. That is what our coach always tries to instill in us, to keep passing the bat and let the person behind you get an at-bat.”
Although the Colonials would put another run on the board in the fifth thanks to two hits, Czechner would close the door with a line out, strikeout and pop fly to finish the job and earn the victory.
LSU will be back in action tomorrow afternoon, taking on South Alabama and George Washington in day two’s action.
LSU vs. Northwestern/George Washington
LSU COACH BETH TORINA
On Baylee Corbello’s performance against Northwestern University…
“She is doing a great job. She keeps going out there everyday and proving herself. That is what we are looking for. I think she has done a lot of nice things as a freshman. She will continue to improve. Hopefully, we will continue to improve on these starts. We will work to eliminate some of the walks, continue working ahead of hitters, and having strikeout numbers she has been having.”
On LSU’s offensive performance tonight…
“I think our offense made a really good adjustment. They changed their offensive plan. I think that is one of the best adjustments I have seen this team make in a long time. I was really happy with that. They stepped up and made the adjustment. It showed right away.”
On preparing for No. 18 South Alabama…
“I think South Alabama will be the toughest opponent we face this year. We know a lot about them. We played them last year. We saw them in the regional last year. They had a great season, and we know we are up against a really solid team with two really good pitchers. We will show up with our best game and see what happens.”
2B ALLISON FALCON
On her homerun and grand slam…
“I was actually thinking just to do something small like get a single. I just had to see what kind of pitch I was going to get and do what I can with it. On the second homerun, I just wanted to get a couple more assurance runs for (Ashley) Czechner. I was not looking to hit the ball over. It was kind of an accident.”
On LSU’s offensive performance tonight…
“This night was definitely an example of how contagious hitting can be. Kellsi (Kloss) started it off the first game. I just tried passing the bats. In the second game, the same thing happened. We got a couple runs, and I just wanted to keep the bat going and keep passing the bat. That is what our coach always tries to instill in us, to keep passing the bat and let the person behind you get an at-bat.”
On Baylee Corbello's performance so far this season…
“I can’t say much more about Baylee Corbello. She is improving every game. She is doing fantastic, and it is really fun to watch her grow as a pitcher. She is maturing game to game not just week to week. That is very interesting to watch.”