From LSU Sports
BATON ROUGE – Sandra Simmons delivered a walkoff RBI single to left field with two outs to vault the No. 12 LSU softball team to a dramatic 3-2 eight-inning victory over No. 4 Alabama Thursday in front of a raucous 1,917 fans at Tiger Park.
With the win, LSU (38-11, 13-6 SEC) moved a game ahead of the Crimson Tide (40-8, 12-7 SEC) in the SEC Western Division standings. The Tigers have won six straight home decisions over Alabama going back to the 2008 season. The 1,917 fans was the fifth-largest crowd in program history.
Bianka Bell and Simone Heyward put together a pair of 2-for-3 performances, while Kellsi Kloss provided a two-run home run to spark a seven-hit attack for the Tigers.
Rachele Fico went the distance for LSU in the circle and improved to 23-9 on the season. She allowed two runs on six hits and picked up two strikeouts versus four walks. The senior right-hander is now six Ks away from passing fellow All-American Emily Turner for third place on LSU's all-time list.
"It was really exciting," head coach Beth Torina said. "I'll start off by saying Simone (Heyward) did a great job of starting us off and putting the ball in play. The slappers are such tough outs. They did exactly what we needed them to do. It was good for Sandra (Simmons) to come through. The freshmen were awesome tonight. Kellsi (Kloss) and Sandra were the heroes tonight."
Simmons' heroics were set up by a Heyward leadoff infield single on a chopper to shortstop. LSU kept the rally going as A.J. Andrews drew a four-pitch walk. Jacee Blades reached on a fielder's choice to put runners on the corners. Alabama elected to fill the bases and issued an intentional walk to Bell.
Two batters later, Simmons cranked a 1-2 offering that defected off the glove off a diving Danae Hays from her shortstop post and squirted into left field which enabled Heyward to race home with the game-winner.
"I was seeing her (Jackie Traina) well all night," Simmons said. "I knew it was my chance to end this game. We wanted to be done with it. After I started having my intelligence to get on top of the ball more, I knew I could produce it. I had nerves, but good nerves to where I knew I could do it. I just wanted to be the one to end it."
Alabama had an opportunity to take the lead during the top of the 8th inning. The Crimson Tide loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. However, Fico buckled down and got Hays to foul out which kept the score knotted at 2-2.
"That is one thing this team is really good about," Torina said. "That is what I just told them. They never lost hope. They never had a doubt. They never second-guessed themselves. They have a ton of fight and I think that is the best quality this team has."
LSU grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the fourth inning. After making a jumping catch to end an Alabama threat during the third inning, Allison Falcon coaxed a one out walk. Two batters later, Kloss connected for a two-run homer, her fifth of the season, to straight-away centerfield on a 3-1 pitch.
Fico sat down the first eight Alabama hitters she faced. She added another run of eight consecutive batters retired ignited by the Falcon catch in the third inning.
Down to their final out, the Crimson Tide pieced together back-to-back singles from Jadyn Spencer and Leona Lafaele. Hays was plunked by an 0-2 pitch, while Andrea Hawkins and Kayla Braud tacked on consecutive walks to even the tally at 2-2. Fico regained her form and snagged a Haylie McCleney line drive back to the circle.
Alabama's Jackie Traina was tagged with the loss and dropped to 17-5 on the season. She was touched up for three runs on seven hits. She added three strikeouts versus four walks.
"My team had my back tonight big time," Fico said. "In the seventh inning, I got a little too anxious. We were able to get out of it, and we came back strong. We kept them off the scoreboard. I did everything I could to give my team a chance to score a run for us. We really came up big with it tonight, and it was an awesome team effort."
Game two of the series is set for Friday at 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge. The radio broadcast and live video can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live.
Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live stats at www.LSUsports.net/livestats along with live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsusoftball on Twitter.