From LSU Sports
BATON ROUGE – The No. 12 LSU softball team used solid performances in all three phases of the game to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory over No. 4 Alabama Friday as a program-record 2,651 spirited fans gathered at Tiger Park.
With the win, LSU (39-11, 14-6 SEC) extends its lead to two games over the Crimson Tide 40-9, 12-8 SEC) in the SEC Western Division standings. The Tigers have collected seven straight home decisions over Alabama going back to the 2008 season.
LSU's slappers of A.J. Andrews, Jacee Blades and Simone Heyward combined for a 5-for-7 effort and scored both runs. Andrews and Blades picked up their team-leading 16th and 15th multi-hit performances of the season. Bianka Bell and Allison Falcon accounted for RBIs on sacrifice flies.
"This was exciting and awesome for the fans who came out and gave us support," head coach Beth Torina said. "What a great atmosphere we have had the last few nights at Tiger Park. I thought the defense was the key tonight. They have some really quick slappers at the top of their lineup like we have. We handled them really well from the left side of our infield. Then we came up with some key hits at some good moments. The slappers (A.J. Andrews, Jacee Blades and Simone Heyward) on our side were awesome. They were on-base all night. I thought they caused a lot of problems for their defense."
Ashley Czechner went the distance in the circle for the Tigers and moved her unblemished mark to 10-0 for the season. The South Carolina native scattered one run on eight hits and recorded one strikeout versus two walks.
"Her (Czechner) track record before she came to LSU was she is a big game pitcher," Torina said. "The more pressure she has, the better she is. I think she is showing us that all the time. I am glad she pitched the entire game tonight. I thought she was fantastic. I felt really confident putting her back out there in the seventh, and she did exactly what we needed her to do."
LSU's defense neutralized the Crimson Tide running game as catcher Kellsi Kloss threw out a pair of Alabama baserunners attemping to steal bases. The Tiger infield registered nine ground ball outs highlighted by Bell's four assists from the shortstop position.
"Bianka [Bell] and Kellsi [Kloss] just played a phenomenal game," Czechner said. "Bianka was basically playing second base with some of those plays she made. Kellsi threw out two runners. To throw out two people especially against Alabama, is just phenomenal. Tammy [Wray], Sandra [Simmons] and Allison [Falcon] also made some really great plays on the infield. I could not have done it without them."
The Crimson Tide threatened to dent the scoreboard during the first inning. Alabama opened the contest with back-to-back singles from Kaila Braud and Haylie McCleney. Two batters later, Molly Fichtner coaxed a walk to load the bases with one out.
Czechner found her bearings and kept the Crimson Tide scoreless. She induced a popup and a ground ball back to circle.
LSU jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the home half of the frame. Andrews and Blades set the table with a double and single, respectively. Andrews raced to the plate after Falcon lifted a sacrifice fly to centerfield for the game's first run.
Alabama attempted to respond with the equalizer during the second inning. With runners on first and second base and two outs, McCleney punched a single to right field. Danielle Richard sprinted toward home plate, but Heyward gunned her down at the plate for the third out of the frame.
LSU added another run in the third inning. Heyward, Andrews and Blades pieced together three straight singles to load the bases. Bell cranked a sacrifice fly to deep left field to push LSU's lead to 2-0.
The Crimson Tide broke through and trimmed the deficit down to 2-1 with a Richard home run to left field with one out during the fourth inning.
Alabama put the tying run into scoring position in the fifth and sixth innings. Czechner forced the Crimson Tide into a fly out with a runner at third base during the fifth and caught Richard attempting to swipe third base to end the threat in the sixth.
Leslie Jury was tagged with the loss and dropped to 15-4 on the season. She surrendered two runs on six hits and came away with one strikeout against three walks.
Czechner retired the Crimson Tide in order for her first 1-2-3 stanza to wrap up the 2-1 triumph.
"It feels great," Falcon said. "We came in here with a plan, and we executed. It feels really good to set a goal and accomplish it. This crowd was jumping. It was a lot of fun to play here. Hopefully, we can get a lot of people out here tomorrow too for Senior Day."
The series finale is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m., and the game will be carried live by Cox Sports Television with Lyn Rollins and retired LSU softball coach Yvette Girouard set to call the action.
The game also will be broadcasted by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge and can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright and Kent Lowe will have the radio call.
LSU will pay tribute to Rachele Fico, Katie Guillory and Lauren Houston as part of Senior Day festivities after Saturday's game. The first 500 fans will receive a LSU foam claw.