The No. 11 LSU softball team squared its weekend series with No. 12 Missouri at one game apiece Saturday night with an 8-0, five-inning victory at Tiger Park.
LSU (37-10, 12-5 Southeastern Conference) controlled the game in all facets — most notably in the circle, where junior pitcher Ashley Czechner tossed a two-hit shutout while striking out three and issuing one walk.
Thanks to Czechner’s dominance, Missouri (25-7, 10-6) suffered its first shutout since April 13, 2012 — a span of 54 games.
“I just really wanted to go right at them,” Czechner said. “I didn’t want to get behind in the count, and I wanted to throw a first-pitch strike as often as I could, because I know when I get behind, I get in a lot of trouble.”
Czechner recorded first-pitch strikes on 11 of 17 batters on route to her ninth win of the season.
LSU freshman catcher Kellsi Kloss had the best seat in the house to see Czechner’s gem. She said Czechner’s efficiency was a joy to watch.
“It was awesome to see her establish strikes right away, and I felt like their hitters didn’t really know what to do,” Kloss said. “It almost seemed like they were so shocked by that first-pitch strike that they were flustered after that.”
A night after LSU’s bats went cold in a 6-1 defeat to Missouri, the home team recorded eight base hits and forced Missouri into five errors — including three errors in the first inning, which led to four LSU runs.
One error, in particular, led to some very interesting but effective base running.
With runners on first and second, junior Allison Falcon hit a line drive to center field that bounced off Taylor Gadbois’ glove. Confusion on the base paths ensued, with the base runners heading the wrong direction at one point, but Missouri failed to record an out. The play scored a run and put runners at second and third base with just one out.
LSU freshman Sandra Simmons made Missouri pay by clearing the bases with a two-RBI single.
Simmons later scored on a throwing error to give LSU an early 4-0 lead.
LSU tacked on three runs in the third inning, taking advantage of two more Missouri errors. Simmons scored on a wild pitch, and Kloss stole home when sophomore Rikki Alcaraz dashed for second and solicited a throw to the base.
Kloss finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs and a walk — a performance she said she knows she can repeat.
“I was seeing the ball really well today,” Kloss said. “I told myself to look for one pitch and don’t get out of your element. … I stayed confident, and I feel really good about myself right now.”
Just one run shy of taking game two in five innings, Simmons led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single up the middle and advanced to third base on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Then Alcaraz laid down a squeeze bunt, and Simmons crossed the plate to claim the victory.
Second-year coach Beth Torina said LSU did a good job of finishing off the game, but added her players were winners even before Saturday’s first pitch, citing their efforts in putting together LSU’s second annual “Teal Game.” LSU wore teal jerseys and encouraged fans to wear the same color in support of increased awareness about ovarian cancer.
“It didn’t matter what happened in this game, honestly,” Torina said. “We won this day because of this event, this crowd and everything that happened with this program today. The game was definitely the icing on the cake.”
The event yielded 2,291 spectators — the second-largest crowd at Tiger Park and the third-largest in the program’s history.
LSU and Missouri return to Tiger Park at 1 p.m. Sunday for the rubber match, where LSU is likely to face Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas, who earned the series-opening victory Friday night.
“We know we’re going to see a completely different team from them tomorrow night with Chelsea Thomas on the mound,” Torina said. “We have our work cut out for us tomorrow. It will be a good gut check for us.”