LSU faces Missouri at home in  big series

One week after taking two out of three games from new Southeastern Conference foe Texas A&M, the LSU softball team returns home this weekend to face the league’s other newbie.

Just like last week, No. 11 LSU has some recent history with 12th-ranked Missouri, even though they’ll be meeting for the first time as conference rivals in a three-game series starting Friday at Tiger Park.

On their impressive run to the Women’s College World Series last May, LSU shocked Texas A&M in the NCAA Regional, then traveled to Columbia, Mo., to knock off Missouri in the Super Regional.

With that in mind, Missouri (24-6, 9-5 SEC) will be seeking a measure of revenge when it meets LSU (36-9,
11-4) at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday before the two teams wrap up the series at 1 p.m. Sunday.

LSU won’t be thinking about last season, however, as the homestanding Tigers will be trying to win a SEC series for the sixth time this season and remain atop the Western Division standings.

The series with Missouri is the middle one of a challenging three-week stretch for LSU, which will host No. 4
Alabama next weekend to wrap up the month of April.

“Obviously, it is a big series,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “There’s no doubt we’re ready for it, and we know we’re facing a very quality opponent in Missouri.

“They do a lot of things extremely well and are going to bring their ‘A’ game. Chelsea Thomas is a special pitcher, and I know she will be very tough for our offense to deal with. Hopefully, we can execute well and continue to play our game.”

LSU has won eight of its last 10 games and is coming off a 7-1 victory against McNeese State on Wednesday night. The Tigers had 13 hits as A.J. Andrews, Jacee Blades, Simone Heyward, Kellsi Kloss and Sandra Simmons each had multiple hits.

This weekend’s series will feature a couple of the nation’s top pitchers in Thomas and LSU’s Rachele Fico.

Thomas, a two-time All-American, has logged the majority of innings for Mizzou. She is 15-4 with a 1.46 ERA and has held opponents to a .166 batting average. Thomas has also 146 strikeouts in 120.1 innings.

Fico, who has posted a 22-7 record after beating Texas A&M twice last weekend, leads the SEC with 198 strikeouts in 172.1 innings.

Simone Heyward, who cranked a three-run double during LSU’s 3-1 triumph in the deciding game of the NCAA Columbia Super Regional last May, will get another shot at Missouri as one of the team’s offensive catalysts with a .310 average at the bottom of the lineup.

The Missouri series will feature three special promotions for LSU fans.

Friday is the “Pack the Park” game, while Saturday is the second annual “Strikeout Ovarian Cancer” game with LSU wearing teal jerseys to support the cause. The “Bark in the Park” game is on Sunday with fans invited to bring their dogs, which will be required to be on a leash at all time.

Tickets for the Friday and Saturday games are available for $1 each.