Brittany Mack carried a no-hit bid one into the seventh inning, and Ashley Langoni connected for a two-run home run as the LSU softball team doubled its pleasure with another 5-0 victory over South Carolina Saturday at Beckham Field during the middle game of a SEC weekend series.
LSU (22-8, 6-1 SEC) won its 12th consecutive game over South Carolina (19-15, 2-8 SEC) and moved within a half-game of Alabama for the top spot in the SEC Western Division.
Mack recorded seven strikeouts against four walks. With the victory, the senior right-hander joined running mate Rachele Fico with an identical 10-4 record for the season. Mack also became the fifth Tiger pitcher to surpass 500 career strikeouts.
Jacee Blades and Ashley Langoni secured multi-hit performances to fuel the offense. Langoni smacked a two-run home run, her team-leading fourth round tripper of the season. For Blades, it was second straight two-hit effort. Allison Falcon and Juliana Santos also added RBIs for the Tigers.
LSU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead during the first inning. A.J. Andrews made the most of a leadoff walk. She advanced to second base on a Blades sacrifice bunt and moved to third base on an illegal pitch. Andrews sprinted home for the game's first run via a Juliana Santos sacrifice fly.
"I liked the fact that the offense took control of the game early again, and Brittany Mack was extremely impressive on the mound," head coach Beth Torina said. "The defense was fantastic early, made some great plays and allowed Brittany to throw her game. As always, she did a great job of keeping other team off-balanced."
With one out in the third inning, Blades deposited a single to left field leading into the Langoni long ball to push the LSU advantage to 3-0. Langoni belted a 2-1 pitch to straight-away centerfield for her 27th career homer which enabled Langoni to move into a fifth-place tie with former All-American Tara Asbill (1997-2000) and Camile Harris (2003-06) on LSU's all-time list. The two RBIs also vaulted Langoni past Christy Conner (2001-03) for sole possession of 10th place on that career list.
"I was seeing the ball and hitting it well even going back to yesterday," Langoni said. "The problem was I was hitting it right at people. Today, I came out a lot more confident. She left one fat over the plate which allowed me to crush the ball over the fence. I'm very excited and honored to be in the company of that group of girls. They worked hard in building the tradition of our program."
After surrendering an opening walk in the first inning, Mack retired 11 straight South Carolina hitters. The Gamecocks best opportunity to score came during the sixth inning. A pair of walks and a dropped fly ball filled the bases with one out. Mack dug deep to get a pair of ground balls to keep the score at 3-0.
"Our team played amazing for the second straight day," Mack said. "The game plan was to throw a little more off-speed than usual because South Carolina is a very aggressive team that swings hard. In the sixth inning, I tried to stay relaxed when they loaded the bases. I took some deep breathes and knew I had to do my part after the two walks."
LSU tacked on two insurance runs during the seventh inning. Tammy Wray and Andrews were issued free passes sandwiched between a Blades bunt single. Santos battled her way to a nine-pitch walk, and Falcon was plunked for the final margin of 5-0.
South Carolina's Audrey Broyles was dealt the loss and dropped to 5-5 on the season. The Tigers struck for six hits, five earned runs and notched seven walks versus Broyles.
The series finale is slated for Sunday at 12 p.m. CT with live audio and live stats inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. The game also will be carried live Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway set to call the action.
"We definitely want to come out of this series with three wins," Torina said. "We want to do that every time we can and know that sweeps are hard to come by in the SEC. Every time that opportunity presents itself, you have to take advantage of it."
Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsu_softball on Twitter