From LSU Sports
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Bianka Bell and Sandra Simmons turned in a pair of multi-hit efforts and combined for five RBIs as the No. 13 LSU softball team collected an 8-2 victory over Arkansas during the series opener Friday at Bogle Park.
LSU (32-7, 8-2 SEC) has won 14 of its last 16 outings since March 10. With the win, the Tigers also claimed their 12th straight victory over Arkansas (25-14, 3-7 SEC) going back to the 2009 season and maintained sole possession of first place in the SEC Western Division standings.
LSU's offense pounded out 11 hits en route to its 11th double digit output of the season. In addition to Bell and Simmons, A.J. Andrews picked up a 3-for-5 performance. She scored three runs and stole a pair of bases from the top of the lineup. The Tigers also received RBIs from Rikki Alcaraz, Allison Falcon and Dylan Supak.
"I thought we did an excellent job on the offensive end, and a lot of people contributed to tonight's win," head coach Beth Torina said. "We did everything from hitting the ball off the wall to bunt singles and showed a lot of versatility mixing up in our offensive approach. Sandra was spectacular and provided some key hits in situations with runners on-base."
Rachele Fico went the distance for LSU in the circle and improved to 19-5 on the season. She was touched up for two unearned runs on three hits and recorded six strikeouts against five walks.
LSU's offense scored runs off all three of Arkansas pitchers who saw action. Chelsea Cohen allowed five of the eight runs over the first 2.1 innings and dropped to 12-7 for the season.
"We were ready to play ball tonight and wanted to keep the momentum going after Wednesday's win over Florida State," Andrews said. "I thought we did a great job as a team of executing our hitting plans. Being a leadoff hitter, my job is to set the tone for the rest of the offense. When I'm able to get on, I know it pumps my teammates up to drive me in."
LSU grabbed a 1-0 edge during the first inning. The Tigers put together a two-out rally ignited by a Bell single and a Falcon walk. Simmons laced a RBI single through the left side to plate Bell with the game's first run. LSU has won all 16 of its games when scoring in the first inning this season.
The Tigers garnered a four-run uprising in the third inning. Andrews slapped a leadoff single, stole second base and scored on Bell's RBI double to left centerfield. After Falcon reached on an error, Simmons made the Razorbacks pay with a two-run triple. Alcaraz tacked on a RBI double of her own to extend the LSU lead to 5-0 which chased Cohen from the game.
"You don't even know that Bianka and Sandra are freshmen because they're both so confident when they go up to the plate," Andrews said. "They swing so hard and with such power. Everyone on the team has a lot of confidence that they are going to get the job done when they come up in clutch situations. I know they'll continue to do well as the season goes along."
The Tigers added another tally during the fourth inning. Andrews and Jacee Blades set the table with consecutive infield singles. A passed ball enabled both runners to move into scoring position, and Andrews sprinted home on Bell's ground out to make it 6-0.
LSU pushed its advantage to 7-0 in the sixth inning. Once again, Andrews led off the frame with a single. She swiped second base and raced home on Falcon's two-out RBI single through the left side.
Arkansas rallied for two unearned runs in the home half of the frame. The Razorbacks took advantage of a Bell error to open up the stanza. Nicole Schroeder followed with a single, and Chloe Oprzedek knocked a RBI double.
The Tigers received a spectacular diving catch from Andrews for the inning's first out. Two batters later, Gee secured a RBI via a sacrifice fly to cut the LSU lead down to 7-2. Arkansas loaded the bases courtesy of a hit batter and a walk. However, Fico buckled down to get the final out of the stanza. She got Devon Wallace, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, to pop out.
"Arkansas is a solid team, and their swinging the bat very well," Torina said. "I thought Rachele was impressive and was able to shut them down especially when they had runners on. We got some unbelievable defensive plays. A.J's catch was one of the best I've seen only bettered by another one of her catches earlier this season."
LSU used a pair of walks and a pair of hit batters for the final margin of 8-2. Supak coaxed a four-pitch walk for the run-scoring play.
"We definitely have some things we need to work on," Torina said. "They're always some things we need to work on, and we're always trying to get better. It's one of those nights where it's easier to give them coaching points after a win instead of when they're beating themselves up after a loss."
Game two of the series is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m., and the game will be carried live by Cox Sports Television with Brock Bowling and Leah Secondo set to call the action. The game also will be broadcasted by the LSU Sports Radio Network on Country Legends 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge and can be accessed by Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live. Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway will have the radio call.
Fans can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live stats at www.LSUsports.net/livestats along with live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsusoftball on Twitter.
LSU's next home series will be April 19-21 when Missouri makes its first SEC trip to Tiger Park. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net or on-site at the Tiger Park Ticket Office starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Friday's series opener is the program's "Pack the Park" game with $1 general admission tickets, while Saturday's contest marks the team's second annual "Strikeout Ovarian Cancer" event.