LSU softball team falls behind, loses to Texas in season opener

Things couldn’t have started any better for LSU starting pitcher Ashley Czechner in the Tigers softball team’s season opener with Texas on Thursday night.

Czechner sailed through the first two innings, retiring all six batters she faced, before No. 10 Texas struck for a run in third inning and four more in the fifth and went on to a 6-1 win against 17th-ranked LSU in chilly Tiger Park.

The good news is LSU won’t have to wait long to get another shot at its first victory. In the first day of the three-day Tiger Classic on Friday, the Tigers will take on Minnesota at 5 p.m. and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at 7 p.m.

Texas shortstop Taylor Thom unloaded a three-run homer that cleared the left-field berm on one bounce to cap a four-run fifth inning and right fielder Lindsey Stephens added a solo shot to center in the sixth to power the Longhorns to the win.

“They have a really powerful offensive team and they played a good game,” said Czechner, who was 12-1 last season in her first season with the Tigers. “I threw two bad pitches. … I wish I could get them back.

“We got out of control in the fifth (inning) and should have slowed down a little bit,” she said. “They have a real good team that hit the ball really hard. We played well, other than those two big hits.”

On the flip side, LSU, which managed just four hits in the game, failed to capitalize on a bit of early wildness by Texas starter Gabby Smith.

Jacee Blades and Bianka Bell, who drew back-to-back walks with just one out, were left stranded at third and second, respectively, after Sahvanna Jaquish and Kellsi Kloss both flied out to right.

UT’s Mandy Ogle opened the third inning with a double to left-center field, the first hit off Czechner, and later scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Brejae Washington.

LSU tied it in the fourth when Sandra Simmons was credited with a triple on a long fly ball that went off Washington’s glove in left-center field and a single up the middle by Allison Falcon.

But Texas came right back in the fifth to take the lead for good.

Three singles, the last one on a ball that was dribbled right in front of the plate by Stephanie Ceo, produced the go-ahead run before Thom blasted a Czechner pitch just inside the left-field foul pole.

“Ultimately, we needed to pitch around Taylor Thom,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “She is their best player and hitter. We let her be the deciding factor in the game, which is something we don’t want to do.

“We want to try to make someone else beat us, and we didn’t do a good job of that. She is a great player. Hats off to her more than anything. She is a fantastic player.”

Stephens opened the top of the sixth with another homer to knock Czechner out of the game.

“She has to learn to make better mistakes. … She has to give us a chance to play defense and make mistakes stay in the ball park,” Torina said. “She’s going to do that as the season goes on. I’m confident she will bounce back and be just fine.”