Tammy Wray belted a pair of two-run home runs and had a career-best four RBIs, and Ashley Czechner fired another one-hit shutout Saturday as the LSU softball team picked up a 6-0 victory over South Carolina in front of a season-high 1,705 fans at Tiger Park.
The Tigers (27-5, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) pushed their winning streak to nine games and have picked up victories in 13 of their last 15 outings since March 1.
The win enabled LSU to remain in sole possession of first place in the SEC West Division race.
Czechner (7-0) came away with her first career seven-inning shutout. The only hit she allowed cme in the fourth inning, when Dana Hathorn got an infield single for South Carolina (17-11, 0-5).
“Ashley did a really good job,” coach Beth Torina said. “She threw a lot of strikes today and was able to spin it really well. I thought she kept them off balanced for the entire game. It was a really good performance from her. I thought it was probably her best. You know, I say that every time she takes the mound, that it has been her best performance. I think that just shows how much she continues to grow every time she takes the field.”
Czechner, a South Carolina native, had five strikeouts and one walk on 82 pitches. She pounded the strike zone early and often, getting 17 first-pitch strikes on the 24 batters she faced.
“At the beginning of the year, I was just trying to feel everything out,” Czechner said. “Now I’m getting a lot more comfortable in the circle and a lot more comfortable with my teammates. I’m pitching against some of the best competition in the SEC. Coach Torina has worked really, really hard with me. We’ve been working on each pitch, doing certain drills and really just fine-tuning the little things.”
LSU broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the fourth inning. Sandra Simmons smacked a one-out single through the right side, and Wray — who saw 11 pitches in her first at-bat — jumped on the first pitch of her second plate appearance. She cranked a two-run homer just inside the left field foul pole and onto the berm, giving LSU a 2-0 lead.
“My first at-bat, I told coach (Howard) Dobson that I was going to look out,” Wray said. “I’ve been struggling with the inside pitch. Unfortunately I popped up to the third baseman (the first time), but I was able to see a lot of pitches. Going into my next at-bat, I was confident that I saw enough pitches. I knew where she liked to throw. I told myself that I was going to look in, because that was all she was throwing me. Fortunately, on the first pitch, I was able to make contact and keep it fair.”
The Tigers added four more runs in the fifth inning. Jacee Blades — who matched a career-high with three hits for her team-leading 10th multi-hit game of the season — chopped a leadoff infield single. Bianka Bell ripped a 3-1 offering over the fence in right-center for her sixth homer of the season, extending LSU’s lead to 4-0.
Four batters later, Wray struck again with another two-run homer. This time, she went to straightaway center field, bringing home the Tigers’ final two runs.
The last LSU player to hit two home runs during a SEC game was Rachel Mitchell, who did it against Arkansas on April 27, 2008, at the original Tiger Park.
“Tammy did such a good job of understanding the hitting plan today,” Torina said. “She was able to do multiple things and show some versatility. The more confident she gets, I think the better she’s going to be. She’s just going to go off the charts with her ability, and the power that she’s capable of having.”
The final game of the three-game series is at 1 p.m. Sunday.