Lady Tigers come up short in season finale

Clyde Verdin
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After battling back to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, the No. 25 LSU softball team found itself needing to do so again in the bottom of the seventh, but a bases-loaded opportunity came up empty as the Tigers dropped the series finale to the Mississippi State Bulldogs 4-3 Sunday afternoon at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge.

Rallying to score two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the contest at 3-3, the Bulldogs (38-18, 10-14 SEC) netted a solo home run to give the visitors the lead back in the top of the seventh. LSU (34-21, 13-11) had an opportunity then, as well as a couple more times throughout the contest, to battle back but ended up stranding three of their nine  total base runners in the game in the loss to snap the team’s season-long seven-game winning streak.

Even in the loss, LSU still locked up the sixth seed and a first-round bye in the 2014 SEC Softball Tournament which begins on Wednesday at the Carolina Softball Stadium in Columbia, S.C., and will take on No. 3 seeded Missouri at 10 a.m. CT on ESPNU.

“We were in it until the last pitch. We fought hard throughout the game,” head coach Beth Torina said. “We just didn’t get a lot of breaks, and a few things didn’t go our way. It happens. They have been playing great lately. I don’t think it will change the way we feel right now and our confidence going into the SEC tournament.”

LSU got a pair of hits from senior Jacee Blades and junior A.J. Andrews, as Blades went 2-for-3 and Andrews went 2-for-4. LSU outhit the Bulldogs 9-6 over the course of the game, as Allison Falcon went 1-for-2 with an RBI and run scored, while Tammy Wray went 1-for-3 with an RBI. The heart of the order also produced as Sahvanna Jaquish went 1-for-4, Bianka Bell went 1-for-2 with a run scored and two walks and Kellsi Kloss going 1-for-4 with a run scored.

“Obviously, this loss hurt all of us,” Blades said. “Friday and Saturday, we finally saw the potential we have. We know what we can do now. Anyone on the team can step up and do something. You never know who it will be, and it’s a great thing to be a part of. I am really excited about the SEC tournament.”

Although her three-start winning streak came to an end, senior pitcher Ashley Czechner still had a solid outing as she went the distance, allowing four runs on six hits with six strikeouts and one walk on 131 pitches. Czechner retired nine of the first 13 batters she faced in the first three innings of the game, eventually giving up all four runs in the final four innings of the contest.

“She did a nice job. I thought she threw better earlier in the game,” Torina said. “She had some Sunday struggles early in the game. She did a nice job making changes there and keeping us in it until the end. She just gave up that big one in the end.”