Lady Tigers drop their first game to North Carolina

Matt Dunaway
LSU's Jacee Blades. Photo by LSUsports.net.

The No. 10 LSU softball team was handed its first setback of the 2013 season, a 3-1 decision by No. 22 North Carolina on the final day of the Tiger Classic Sunday at Tiger Park.

LSU (4-1) was six outs away from posting an unblemished opening weekend after the Tigers snatched a 1-0 edge during the fourth inning.

"It just seems like we couldn't get a break all day," head coach Beth Torina said. "Everything that happened seemed to not go our way. We will learn from it. We definitely made some mistakes in our infield in the sixth inning. I think we have to improve on that. We have to be aggressive at the right times and conservative at the right times. I think it is just a balance of (knowing) what we can get and when to go for certain plays."

Jacee Blades hustled her way to an infield single and advanced to second base on a North Carolina throwing error by the shortstop. Two batters later, Allison Falcon belted a RBI double that one-hopped the left field fence for the game's first run.

"I like where I'm in the lineup," Falcon said. "We are doing a lot of things within our hitting plans and hitting the pitcher's weaknesses. That is really helping us a lot. Coach Dobson, Coach Leftwich and Coach McDonald get us really prepared. That helps us out big-time when we are practicing on what a pitcher might throw us so we can be ready for it when a pitcher throws to us in a pressure situation."

Making her first career start against a Top 25 opponent, Meghan Patterson fired a sparkling first five innings of shutout ball. The junior right-hander retired 15 of the first 17 batters she faced. However, she was handed the tough-luck loss and dropped to 1-1 on the season.

The Tar Heels (3-2) opened the sixth inning with a Tisha Mahon bunt single down the third-base line on a bang-bang play at the first base bag. Amy Nece dropped down another bunt reaching on a fielder's choice as Mahon was ruled safe at second base on another close call.

LSU turned to Rachele Fico out of the bullpen, but she walked Erin Satterfield to load the bases. On a 0-2 offering and seventh pitch of the sequence, UNC received the equalizer on Haleigh Dickey's slow-rolling RBI groundout to second base.

Amber Parrish followed with another slow ground ball in front of the pitcher's circle. Fico fielded the ball and elected to go home in attempt to get the lead runner. However, Nece slid under the tag attempt to vault the Tar Heels ahead by a 2-1 margin. Constance Orr added a sacrifice fly to extend UNC's advantage to 3-1.

LSU was poised for a two-out rally during the home half of the frame. Kailey McCasland coaxed a walk followed by Sandra Simmons being hit-by-a-pitch.

On a 2-2 pitch, Tammy Wray lifted a high fly ball on the infield. UNC's Satterfield charged in from her second base post, but the ball bounced in-front of her in fair play. The spin on the bounce of the ball went toward the home plate where UNC's catcher Parrish fielded the ball. She attempted to throw out Wray going from first base to second base. She overthrew her shortstop covering the bag, and the ball went all the way to the centerfield fence, which enabled Simmons and Wray to score on the play giving the Tigers a 4-3 lead.

The lead was only temporary. After a conference, the umpires ruled that Parrish was in foul territory when she fielded the ball. Two pitches later, Wray struck out to keep the score in UNC's favor at 3-1.

"Things didn't fall our way today," Fico said. "If there is a time for this to happen, it is going to be early in the season. When we hit conference play, we need to grow from this and learn from this. We know what we need to work on, and we are going to grind in practice to make it better and right."

LSU had another rally foiled on a bizarre play in the seventh inning. Pinch hitter Simone Heyward was plunked and moved to second base after a Blades walk. With two outs and Bianka Bell representing the go-ahead run at the plate, Heyward and Blades attempted a double steal. The throw by Parrish from her catcher's spot deflected hard off the facemask of Bell's batting helmet.

With Bell on the ground, the ball ricocheted back into play. Heyward broke toward home after hesitation but was tagged out at the plate for the game's final out after a charging Satterfield threw back to Parrish at the plate for the game's final out.

"The thing I love about this team is that we are very emotional," Falcon said. "We get very excited. I think we need to maybe help combat when we're getting down when plays like that happen. We need to find a comfortable spot somewhere in the middle between not to be too excited but not to be too low when bad things happen that don't go our way."

LSU hits the road for the first time on the season and faces Ole Miss for a Wednesday non-conference tilt. Wednesday's first pitch is slated for 3:30 p.m., and a free live audio webcast of the game will be available inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net/live.