From LSU Sports
BATON ROUGE – The No. 21 LSU softball team will carry a four-game winning streak into the 2014 Tiger Invitational which will begin play Friday afternoon at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge.
Although originally scheduled to feature LSU, Penn State, George Washington and Northwestern, the Nittany Lions were forced to delay their arrival into Baton Rouge due to inclement weather in the Northeast. South Alabama has been added to the weekend's lists of tournament participants.
The tournament will now run over four days from Feb 14-17. LSU's game times for Friday and Saturday will remain at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on both days. Even though LSU's opponents have changed, season ticket holders are asked to use their Friday and Saturday tickets on those respective days. The Tigers will open the event with Northwestern [Friday – 3 p.m.], George Washington [Friday – 5:30 p.m.], South Alabama [Saturday – 3 p.m.] and the Colonials for the second time [Saturday – 5:30 p.m.].
On Sunday, LSU will no longer play Northwestern. Instead, the Tigers will play a Monday doubleheader versus Penn State that will have a 4 p.m. first pitch. Season ticket holders are asked to use their Sunday Northwestern ticket for admission to Tiger Park for Monday's twinbill against Penn State.
Fans who have already purchased single game ticket for Sunday's Northwestern game can exchange those tickets to any remaining LSU home softball game this season.
Tickets are still available for all games this weekend and can be purchased at www.LSUtix.net and at the Tiger Park Ticket Office which will open 1 hour before the first game of the day. Admission is free to the two Sunday games since LSU will not be playing that day.
"We definitely have quality opponents this weekend as well," LSU head softball coach Beth Torina said. "Northwestern is a historically great program, and this team looks to be nothing different. They are swinging great, have great offensive numbers, so we definitely have our work cut out for us there, and then riding into Penn State and George Washington, both who did some good things their first weekend."
After dropping their first two games of the season to Texas and Minnesota, the Tigers roared back to sweep the last four games of the Tiger Classic earning wins over SIU-Edwardsville, Oklahoma State, Murray State and Central Arkansas to sit at 4-2 overall on the season. LSU scored no less than eight runs during three of the four wins, defeating the Cougars and Racers in five innings after reaching double-digit runs in both.
LSU had the best overall hitting percentage of any team in the Tiger Classic last weekend, averaging .314 at the plate. Leading the charge over the weekend was A.J. Andrews and Sandra Simmons, who were both named to the Tiger Classic All-Tournament team. Andrews belted out six hits and scored four times to finish the weekend with a .462 clip and .611 on-base percentage to go along with her five stolen bases.
Simmons had the best overall week, hitting .400 with a double, triple and one of three home runs the team smashed along with Bianka Bell and Sahvanna Jaquish. Simmons stole three bases cleanly and had a staggering .800 slugging percentage, maintaining a perfect fielding percentage at first base.
"We just tried to put the hottest hitter we had in the three spot to make sure she's getting up in the first inning," Torina said. "She's been working really hard with our assistant coach, Howard Dobson, and doing a great job, so I think she deserved to be there and we'll make the adjustments however we need to. Whoever is swinging the best is who is going to fill that role."
One of the biggest keys for the squad over the weekend was the combined strength of the trio of pitchers in Baylee Corbello, Ashley Czechner and Kelsee Selman in the circle for the Tigers.
After an outstanding opening two games to her LSU career, Corbello was honored by the Southeastern Conference on Monday by being named the league's freshman of the week, going 1-1 with a 0.50 earned run average and a conference-leading 23 strikeouts. The Tiger Classic All-Tournament Team pick gave up just one run and scattered three hits in two complete-game performances, becoming the fourth freshman in team history to earn double-digit K's in their first start and tied for the third-most in a game with 13.
"She's been in that situation a lot, she's gotten a lot of awards in her career prior to LSU so I don't think that's any different for her," Torina said. "Hopefully it does boost her confidence a little bit, she deserves to be confident. She had a great weekend for our team."
Czechner, the senior right-hander, earned two wins over the weekend, helping move the Pawley's Island, S.C., native past the tough loss to the Longhorns last Thursday. Czechner came on in relief of Selman during one of the games last weekend, but the freshman right-hander out of Texas returned to the circle in a big way on Sunday in the finale, striking out 13 UCA batters to tie Corbello's mark from earlier in the weekend.
"They did a good job of creating a lot of swings and misses, which is a hard thing to do," Torina said of her pitchers. "So they get a lot of strikeouts, they proved that they could do that. We just need to add a little bit more dimension to their game with the working ahead and being in more pitchers counts instead of hitters counts but ultimately they exceeded my expectations. They did a really good job."
GW enters the weekend after dropping five games in the Mizuno Invitational hosted by Long Beach State last weekend. The Colonials are led by freshman Megan Linn's six hits and .375 batting average and two RBI's.
The Wildcats of Northwestern are 3-1 on the season after they competed in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. All three of NU's wins came with double-digit scoring outputs, led by Big Ten Player of the Week Andrea Filler and her .778 hitting clip.
Also in that same tournament was Penn State, going 3-2 out in Arizona to match the team's best start since the 2010 season. Alyssa Sovereign leads the Nittany Lions with a .444 average, while Marlaina Laubach did wonders in the circle going 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA.
After their previous tournament, the Georgia Softball Classic, was cancelled, South Alabama now brings its 5-0 record to the Red Stick for two games in an early preview of what's to come when the Tigers take on the Jaguars on April 23. Five of USA's hitters have an average over .300, while the Jaguar pitching staff is giving up less than half a run per game.
"I think our goals for the weekend are to continue to play airless defense, make sure our pitchers are throwing strikes and have our offense not leave so many runners on base," Torina said.
The LSU Sports Radio Network will broadcast Friday's game against George Washington along with Saturday's game versus South Alabama and George Washington on WNXX 104.5 FM and KYPY 104.9 FM in Baton Rouge. Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway will serve as the broadcast team.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @BethTorina on Twitter and @lsusb on Instagram.
Below is the revised 2014 Tiger Invitational schedule.
2014 Tiger Invitational Schedule
Friday, February 14
12:30 p.m. - George Washington vs. Northwestern
3 p.m. - Northwestern vs. LSU
5:30 p.m. - George Washington vs. LSU
Saturday, February 15
10 a.m. - South Alabama vs. Northwestern
12:30 p.m. - Northwestern vs. George Washington
3 p.m. - South Alabama vs. LSU
5:30 p.m. - George Washington vs. LSU
Sunday, February 16
9 a.m. - George Washington vs. Penn State
11:30 a.m. - Northwestern vs. Penn State
Monday, February 17
4 p.m. - Penn State vs. LSU [Doubleheader]