The No. 10 LSU softball team used just about every tool in the box to pick up another pair of wins Saturday against Tulsa and Hampton at Tiger Park.
LSU (4-0) never was able to figure out Tulsa (3-1) pitcher Lacey Middlebrooks in its first game, but it didn’t matter in the end.
While the Tigers only managed two hits in the game, they outlasted Middlebrooks using a watchful eye at the plate in the 10th inning to secure a 1-0 win.
“I wasn’t surprised to see our offense have some problems with her,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “We hit a lot of balls hard too, they just happened to be right at people.”
According to international tie-breaker rules, once the game reaches the 10th inning, the last player out from the previous inning starts each fresh inning at second base.
LSU started the bottom of the 10th inning with junior Jacee Blades on second, and Middlebrooks proceeded to walk the first three batters she faced, allowing Blades to score. Junior third baseman Tammy Wray was credited with the game winning RBI.
The Tigers got a Herculean effort out of senior pitcher Rachele Fico (2-0), who threw a complete-game shutout for the second time in as many days.
Fico needed 132 pitches to make it through 10 innings, racking up 14 strikeouts against zero walks.
She seemed to get stronger as the game went on, popping catcher Lauren Houston’s mitt audibly in the later innings.
“The more pressure you put on her, the better she is, honestly,” Torina said. “It wasn’t a question of when she was going to give in, it was a question of when we were going to score.”
LSU has needed the dominant pitching. After scoring five runs in the first inning they played this season, the Tigers have only scored five runs in the following 21 innings.
That’s not to say the Tigers didn’t have their chances.
LSU put the go-ahead runner in scoring position six times in the last seven innings, but failed to cash in until the 10th.
Junior shortstop Allison Falcon may have given LSU its best shot to score in the fifth inning when she led off with a booming double to left field.
The wind was whipping in Tiger Park, and it kept what looked like a sure home run in the park.
“Welcome to Tiger Park,” Torina said.
Falcon’s ball hit near the top of the fence, and the ensuing batters went down in order.
The Tigers had already accumulated more hits than they did against Tulsa by the time the fifth batter came to the plate in the nightcap against Hampton, which LSU won 9-3.
The Tigers steamrolled Hampton for five runs in the first inning, thanks to some opportune hitting from their youngsters.
“I think this group (of freshmen) is special,” Torina said. “They’re going to continue to get better and better throughout the season.”
Sophomore A.J. Andrews led off with a sharp single to center field, and freshman Bianka Bell brought her to the plate with an opposite-field single.
After Bell scored on a wild pitch, freshman Sandra Simmons hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field, freshman Hailey Smith blooped an RBI single down the left field line and freshman Kellsi Kloss closed out the first-inning scoring with an RBI double.
The explosive first inning was enough to earn junior pitcher Ashley Czechner (1-0) the win in her LSU debut, though she struggled at times against Hampton hitters.
Hampton ended LSU’s scoreless innings streak at 24 2⁄3 innings to start the season when right fielder Carla Trimble laced a two-out RBI double in the third inning.
Hampton, coached by former LSU All-American Trena Peel, had been shut out in its first three games before touching Czechner for three runs.
Hampton brought the game-tying run to the plate in the fifth inning, but Czechner worked out of a bases-loaded jam by inducing a pop-up to the first baseman.
Purdue and Tulsa play the first game at 9 a.m. Sunday, followed by LSU and North Carolina in the Tiger Classic finale.
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