STARKVILLE, Miss. — Rachele Fico set a Southeastern Conference single-game record with 22 strikeouts and A.J. Andrews broke a scoreless tie in with a solo homer in the 14th inning as the LSU softball team defeated Mississippi State 1-0 on Friday in the league opener for both teams.
LSU (18-4, 1-0) scored the only run when Andrews, the Tigers’ leadoff hitter, lifted a 0-1 pitch over the fence in center field for her first career home run.
Fico, meanwhile, sat down 25 of the final 27 batters she faced and wrapped up the win in style — with her 22nd strikeout.
“I was in a situation today where I woke up and was feeling under the weather,” Fico said. “I wanted to do everything I could for my team. This is my team, and I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. I’m always going to give them everything I have. I was coming off a weekend where it wasn’t my best performance. My goal was to play as hard as I could, and I (had) to get back on the right foot for them. I took it one pitch at a time, thought about making quality pitches and playing my game.”
Fico tied the SEC record held by former Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott, who had 22 strikeouts against Florida in 2007.
The previous LSU single-game mark was held by former All-American Britni Sneed, who had 19 strikeouts against Oklahoma at the 2001 Women’s College World Series.
“Rachele provided one of the most gutsy performances I’ve ever witnessed,” coach Beth Torina said. “She was fantastic, battled back from last weekend and fought through feeling under the weather. She didn’t have a ton of confidence coming out of Orlando (last weekend), but was able to grind out for a big win.”
Fico outdueled Mississippi State’s Alison Owen, who had 10 strikeouts and no walks in 14 innings.
Meanwhile, Andrews — a slap hitter by trade, who started 0-for-5 Friday — smacked a pitch up in the strike zone. The ball barely cleared the fence, just beyond a leaping attempt by MSU’s Jessica Offutt.
“I wanted to make an adjustment at the plate,” Andrews said. “I was making solid contact with my slapping, but I was hitting the ball right at them. I decided to swing away in my last at-bat. It worked out for me. I looked up and saw the ball go over the fence as I rounded second base. I got really excited and was so happy when I touched home plate.”
Torida added: “Good for A.J. that she was able to make an adjustment at the plate. That’s what we need to take away from this game. Her adjustment was to go away from the slapping and swing full. It worked out for her in a big way.”
Mississippi State (15-5, 0-1) nearly scored during the second inning. After Jessica Cooley drew a one-out walk, Erin Nesbit knocked a chopper off of Fico’s glove. The ball bounced into left field, and Cooley scampered toward third base. An errant throw by LSU left fielder Jacee Blades allowed Cooley to head toward the plate.
LSU third baseman Tammy Wray collected the ball and fired to catcher Lauren Houston, who applied the tag to keep the score tied at 0. With Nesbit at third base, Fico got Shelby Fisher to line out to first baseman Sandra Simmons and end the threat.
LSU put the leadoff runner in the 10th inning courtesy of a Bianka Bell leadoff single. Pinch runner Alex Boulet advanced to second base on Tammy Wray’s sacrifice bunt and moved to third base on a field pickoff attempt by MSU catcher Logan Foulks.
“Every win is a big win when you’re playing in the nation’s toughest conference,” Torina said. “We’re going to enjoy the win and plan to have to fight hard (Saturday).”