LSU edges Bama again, clinches share of Western Division title
The No. 12 LSU softball team erased three separate deficits and completed a series sweep with a dramatic 4-3 victory over No. 4 Alabama to clinch a share of the Southeastern Conference Western Division title Saturday as another program-record crowd of 3,231 fans packed Tiger Park.
“Our seniors have definitely left their mark, and a lot of credit goes them,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “They continued to raise the bar and raise the level for this program.
“Honestly, it’s not about Alabama at all for me. It is about these Tiger fans, and this team being able to be in the spot they are in the toughest conference in the nation. We have the best fans in the country. They came out today and supported us. They changed the game multiple times in multiple ways. They were unbelievable all weekend.”
LSU (40-11, 15-6 SEC) secured its 12th 40-win regular season in program history and opened up a three-game lead over the Crimson Tide (40-10, 12-9) heading into the season’s final week. The Tigers have won eight straight home decisions over Alabama dating to the 2008 season.
Jacee Blades’ RBI single in the fifth inning put LSU in the lead for good at 4-3 and completing a two-out, two-run rally.
The Tigers had trailed 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2.
The decisive fifth-inning surge — which provided LSU with its first lead — was started by Katie Guillory legging out an infield single and getting to second base on a throwing error.
A.J. Andrews then drove in pinch runner Simone Heyward to tie the game. A throwing error by Alabama center fielder Haylie McCleney allowed Andrews to scoot all the way to third base. And Blades took the first pitch of the next at-bat and deposited an RBI single on a chopper to shortstop.
“It was so cool that Katie Guillory was able to get that hit for us,” Torina said. “She is one of our super seniors being her fifth year. She has worked so hard to be in the lineup. She really fought her way during that last at-bat. She really started the offense there. It was a motivating factor for our team to see her do that.”
Rachele Fico retired the final four Alabama batters she faced to wrap up the 4-3 win. She struck out McCleney, who was previously 2-for-2 with two RBIs, for the game’s final out.
“That inning was huge for us,” Fico said. “We knew that we had the speed of their lineup coming up. They’re absolutely so dangerous when they get on-base and make things happen. So, we knew that we were going to play really good defense. They put the ball in play.
“We were able to make good plays, and we were able to end it on a strikeout, which is so awesome. That team is so talented. I have so much respect for the Alabama softball program. To be able to clinch the SEC West on this day is just such a special thing to me. It’s something that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
Fico (24-9) allowed eight hits and three runs, two earned. The senior right-hander had four strikeouts and one walk. She moved one strikeout from matching fellow All-American Emily Turner for third place on LSU’s all-time list.
Alabama took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Danielle Richard’s RBI single. But LSU tied the game in the bottom half of the inning by manufacturing the equalizer. After a leadoff single, A.J. Andrews advanced to second base on Blades’ sacrifice bunt and scored on Bianka Bell’s RBI single down the left field line.
Alabama took a 2-1 lead in the third with consecutive doubles, first by Braud and then by McCleney.
LSU tied the score at 2-2 on Sandra Simmons’ solo home run, her fourth of the season, to right field.
Bama retook the lead at 3-2 in the fifth, with Braud knocking a one-out double to left field, moving to third on a wild pitch and scoring on McCleney’s sacrifice fly to centerfield.
“It is definitely a great day,” Heyward said. “As a team, I thought we took it one game at a time. It was for the SEC West. It was for pride. It was a great series, just everything.”