In a matchup of All-American pitchers, Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas got the better of LSU senior Rachele Fico as No. 12 Missouri topped No. 11 LSU 6-1 Friday night at Tiger Park.
Thomas limited LSU (36-10, 11-5 Southeastern Conference) to two hits and struck out 13 while the Missouri (25-6, 10-5) offense pounded out nine hits and drew six walks.
LSU coach Beth Torina said Fico (22-8) will play an important part in the remainder of the series.
“I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll make an adjustment,” Torina said. “I’m 100 percent confident she will come back and win us a ballgame this weekend.”
Fico first ran into trouble in the third inning when Missouri loaded the bases with a pair of two-out hits and a walk. The Oxford, Conn., native then hit first baseman Kelsea Roth on the leg, scoring catcher Jenna Marston from third base.
LSU knotted the score at 1-1 in the fourth inning on an RBI groundout from freshman first baseman Sandra Simmons, scoring sophomore right fielder Jacee Blades from third base.
Blades singled to open the inning, giving LSU its first hit, and advanced to third base on a double to the wall from freshman shortstop Bianka Bell.
“We had some good at-bats there in the middle of the game,” Torina said. “Bianka squared up one ball. … but I didn’t think we had quality at-bats, though, throughout.”
LSU’s lead was short-lived as Missouri tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning. Third baseman Angela Randazzio doubled to score pinch-runner Brianna Corwin and Randazzio later scored on an RBI single from Roth to give Missouri a 3-1 lead.
The LSU defense did its part in the frame, recording each out in dramatic fashion. Blades leapt to snag a liner in left field for the first out and Bell scooped up a grounder at shortstop and fired home with the bases loaded for the second out.
But senior third baseman Tammy Wray outdid her teammates for the third out, which saved at least two runs. Wray dove to her left to knock down a hard grounder, jumped to her feet and threw a strike to first base to retire speedy second baseman Emily Crane.
An inning later, an LSU defensive misstep on a tough play allowed three runners to cross the plate, giving Missouri a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Missouri shortstop Corrin Genovese hit a shallow fly ball into left centerfield. Blades raced over from left field and got her glove on the ball, but it bounced away, clearing the bases.
Obviously unhappy with her three-run error, Blades returned to the field 40 minutes after the game to take practice fly balls in an otherwise empty Tiger Park.
Thomas stymied LSU’s bats over the game’s final three innings to record her 16th win of the season in dominant fashion.
“We were just swinging at everything,” Bell said. “We were guessing. … Hopefully, we can see the ball better tomorrow and make adjustments.”
For the second consecutive weekend LSU finds itself down a game on Friday, but still with a chance to win the weekend series — as LSU did last weekend at then-No. 12 Texas A&M (35-10, 6-9 SEC).
“We’ve bounced back before, and we have a long series ahead of us,” Fico said. “I know we’re not going to roll over and just give it up. We’re going to fight to the very end.”
LSU remains atop the SEC West despite the loss, as No. 4 Alabama (38-7, 10-6) lost to Mississippi State (29-14, 7-9) in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
LSU and Missouri square off Saturday at 6 p.m. for what will be the LSU’s second annual “Strikeout Ovarian Cancer” event, where LSU will wear teal jerseys in support of the cause
“We’re excited about the event,” Torina said. “It’s something that’s really close to my heart and something we definitely need to fight for — to spread the awareness and educate people in this community about this disease.
“Hopefully, tomorrow will help do that.”