LSU softball splits doubleheader with Penn State
BATON ROUGE, LA — The No. 21 LSU softball team pounded out 11 runs on 12 hits, getting back-to-back home runs from Bianka Bell and Kellsi Kloss, and two triples from Allison Falcon amid five total extra-base hits to power the Tigers to an 11-3 win over Penn State in game one of a doubleheader between the two teams on Monday.
LSU (8-3) scored four runs in two of the first three innings, needing just four innings to score all 11 to pull ahead of the Nittany Lions (4-4) for good with little resistance. As a whole, the Tigers struck out just once and stranded only three runners over the course of the game, capitalizing on every opportunity they had with runners in scoring position.
A little over a week since the incurring the feat, it was fitting that the top two hitters on the night in Bell and Kloss notched the 20th time in program history that two teammates homered in consecutive at-bats, with Kloss going 3-for-3 with an RBI and three runs scored, while Bell went 2-for-2 with three RBI and two runs scored.
“I haven’t been struggling by any means, but I have been trying to get back to seeing the ball well,” Kloss said. “Luckily, I got a pitch I knew I could handle and I pounced on it. I wasn’t trying to hit it over, but thankfully I did.”
For Falcon, who has had one of the hottest bats on the team as of late, she doubled her triple total in one game as she had two coming into the contest and exited with four for her career. The Tigers had three three-baggers, as Jacee Blades had one of her own, as it is the first time since 2004 that any LSU player had two in a contest and for the team to have three as a group.
After holding a no-hitter through three, starting pitcher Baylee Corbello gave up three runs on two hits, all coming in the Penn State fourth inning well after LSU had taken a sizeable lead. The three runs were the most she’s given up in a game this season as she struck out four batters with seven walks, but she continued her streak of consecutive complete game performances in the process.
“We were able to see what Bailey Landry, Constance Quinn and freshmen pitchers were able to do,” assistant coach Howard Dobson said. “We now get to put them out against some Pac 12 teams and west coast teams. We will see what we are made of and where we stack up before conference starts.”
LSU struck first in bottom half of the first inning, as Bell singled through the right side scoring Blades and Sandra Simmons who each got on with singles to go up 2-0. It looked like that would be the biggest hit of the inning, but the hot bat of Falcon came through again as she tripled to right field scoring Kloss and Bell to put the Tigers up 4-0, as Falcon connected on the fifth hit of the inning to put LSU up four.
The Tigers didn’t take their foot off of the gas in the second, as Blades legged out a triple that dribbled down the left field line, scoring Bailey Landry who reached on a hit and stole second to put LSU up 5-0 with just one out. On the very next play, Simmons came through with a sacrifice fly to deep center to score the left fielder to put the Tigers on top 6-0.
The big bats came out for LSU right away in the third, as Bell took the third pitch of her at bat deep over the center field fence, and was promptly followed by Kloss who drilled a shot to the Berm on the very first pitch of the at bat to make it 8-0 Tigers. After a pitching change, Falcon walked on four pitches to take first and then stole second. A walk to Corbello put two runners on, setting the table for Landry who hit one through the left side, scoring two to push the lead to double-digits and advanced to third on throw to drive in the third and fourth runs of the inning.
Penn State used two hits to score three runs in the fourth, as Corbello walked the first two batters of the frame, as a single up the middle scored the first Nittany Lion run of the day. Another walk loaded the bases, as a single down the left field line brought in two more to cut the lead to just seven at 10-3. Fortunately for the Tigers, the next three PSU batters went down in order to end the Penn State rally.
With two outs, Kloss singled up the middle of the infield to reach first. Falcon belted another shot, this time to right field scoring Kloss and pushing the LSU lead back to eight runs and giving the Tigers an 11-3 advantage heading into the fifth. The finish wouldn’t come easy, as a hit batter and a walk put two on with no outs. The lead runner got caught trying to steal third, and a fly out and foul out ended the game in five.
Game Two: Penn State 6, LSU 5
After putting together another top notch offensive performance in the first game, the No. 21 LSU Tiger softball team seemed poised to repeat its efforts in game two of the team’s doubleheader against Penn State, but the Nittany Lions countered and came back twice, including taking the lead scoring three unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth innings to win 6-5 to close out the 2014 Tiger Invitational.
LSU (8-4) racked up the hits against Penn State (5-4), cranking out 12 base knocks with doubles from Sahvanna Jaquish and Kellsi Kloss, but the Tigers as a whole stranded eight runners on base, even as PSU stranded 10, but capitalized on its eight hits when it counted most.
10 of the Tigers’ 12 hits on the night came from four players, led by A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades, who combined to go 6-for-7 with two runs scored. Kloss and Allison Falcon each went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Simone Heyward and Jaquish had the other two hits.
“I still think we were intense and had some great hits. I don’t think we ever backed off,” Blades said. “You have one game where we run-rule them and another game where you play with the same intensity and start the same, but you don’t finish the same.”
After finishing the weekend with a .533 batting average, eight hits, nine RBI, two home runs and two triples, Falcon was named the tournament’s most valuable player after finishing at or near the top in five different categories.
Taking the loss was Ashley Czechner, who allowed all six runs on eight hits with five walks and six strikeouts to fall to 4-2 on the season and snapped her four-game winning streak. With the offense sputtering, Penn State earned multiple chances to strike as the first batter in the first five innings earned a walk to open the frame.
After giving up the three runs in the very first inning, Penn State’s Marlaina Laubach settled down and gave up just two more runs for the rest of the contest, finishing with only three strikeouts and two walks and allowing all five runs in the seven-inning affair. PSU’s Shelby Miller was the only Nittany Lion to tack on multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.
“I know how hard Ashley (Czechner) works, and I know she was trying to pound that strike zone,” Kloss said. “We did make a couple errors and couple bad throws, but at the same time we need string together some hits for Ashley. She works really hard for us.”
LSU attacked early to the tune of three runs on four hits in the very first inning. Andrews led off with a hard single through the left side, advancing to second on a stolen base and then to third on an illegal pitch. After Blades singled to put runners at the corners, she advanced to second on a stolen base of her own to put two in scoring position. A sacrifice fly by Simmons plated Andrews to give the Tigers an early 1-0 advantage, as it quickly moved to 2-0 after Jaquish’s double to center to score Blades. The catcher eventually scored on a single by Falcon, after moving on a walk and a fielder’s choice and reaching third base to put the home side up 3-1.
Penn State scored one run in the second on one hit, and then tied the game in the top of the third by scoring two runs on an RBI double to knot the game at 3-3.
A walk to Simmons started the Tiger third, as an out later Bell got hit on the arm to take first base. Kloss doubled to left field scoring Simmons from second allowing LSU to re-take the lead going up 4-3. Looking to capitalize with two more in scoring position, a pop fly and ground out ended the threat for the Tigers.
In the very next inning, the bats were alive again as three consecutive singles by Heyward, Andrews and Blades loaded the bases for Simmons, who scored a sac fly to deep right field scoring Heyward and advancing the other two one more base for the 5-3 LSU lead. However, a line drive to the catcher and grounder to the shortstop ended any hopes of added run support going forward.
Penn State slowly began to chip away beginning in the fifth, as an RBI single made it 5-4, while four straight singles to open the sixth scored one run, while back-to-back fielder’s choice groundouts could only stop one of two potential runs from scoring to give Penn State its first lead of the day.
The Tigers tried to rally, as Andrews earned an infield single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, but would not advance further in the inning. After three straight strikeouts to close the PSU seventh, LSU went down in order to finish the game.
“Sometimes you hit the ball hard, but it doesn’t fall for you,” Dobson said. “Sometimes you hit a flare and it falls for you. Sometimes those are the ones that win you a game.”
LSU will be back in action on Thursday, taking part in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.