LSU wins two on tourney’s first day

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLANDLSU's Allison Falcon (32) is greeted by teammates at home plate after hitting a home run against North Dakota State in the Purple and Gold Challenge at Tiger Park on Friday.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLANDLSU's Allison Falcon (32) is greeted by teammates at home plate after hitting a home run against North Dakota State in the Purple and Gold Challenge at Tiger Park on Friday.

Two more wins, two more quality pitching performances and three more home runs; the early returns are looking good for No. 10 LSU softball.

“I think this team is very talented on both sides of the ball,” said LSU coach Beth Torina. “Every day they’re making me a believer.”

The Tigers (7-1) are already more than two-thirds of the way toward their season total of 13 homers they tallied in 2012. Their power was on display Friday when they hit their seventh, eighth and ninth homers of the season.

LSU put North Dakota State (2-5) away early in the first game of the night, courtesy of a three-run homer by junior shortstop Allison Falcon in the first inning of a game LSU would go on to win 9-0.

With the wind blowing out to left-center field, Falcon deposited a 2-1 offering from pitcher Krista Menke onto the berm in left field, sparking a four-run first inning. The Tigers have now outscored the competition 15-0 in the first innings of games this season.

“I like to see them come out like that,” Torina said.

The first-inning homer was more than enough for senior All-America pitcher Rachele Fico (4-0), who yielded just one hit in five sterling innings.

“It definitely relaxes you as a pitcher when your offense is producing so many runs and swinging the bats the way they are,” Fico said. “They’re on fire right now.”

The only hit Fico allowed came on a soft liner in the fourth inning. The ball rolled to a dead stop behind second base, and North Dakota State’s Cheyenne Garcia just beat Falcon’s throw for an infield single.

Fico became the sixth pitcher in program history to accumulate 600 career strikeouts. She accomplished the feat by striking out the side in the second inning.

Eight of the Tigers’ nine starters collected a hit in the contest, none more memorable than fifth-year senior Katie Guillory’s.

With two outs in the bottom of the third, the left-handed Guillory smacked her first career home run over the right field bleachers. The ball caromed off the bottom of the scoreboard and back into the field.

“When it came off the bat it just felt good,” Guillory said. “When I looked up, I saw it way over the fence and I just told myself to run as fast as I could.”

Guillory was nearly ejected on the play. She was so excited as she rounded third base that she tossed her helmet before being mobbed by teammates as she crossed the plate.

Among those meeting Guillory at the plate was Fico, who gave her longtime teammate a hug after the long ball.

That wasn’t it for Guillory on the night; the Lafayette native also drove in the go-ahead run in the fourth inning of LSU’s 7-2 win against Virginia in the nightcap, though it came in an entirely different fashion.

Tied at two with the bases full of Tigers, Guillory popped a Texas-league single over the Virginia second baseman’s head to score freshman first baseman Sandra Simmons.

LSU tacked on four more runs, getting a contribution from freshman Bianka Bell’s home run in LSU’s three-run fifth inning. The ball looked as if it would’ve punched a hole in the left field fence if it didn’t clear it.

Junior Meghan Patterson (2-1) earned the win after tossing seven innings of two-hit ball.

“She’s worked hard for this,” Torina said of Patterson, who sat behind former LSU All-American Brittany Mack for two years. “This is something that she’s put in the time for and … she deserves this moment.”

LSU plays Virginia again Saturday at 5 p.m., and will follow with Memphis at 7:30.