STARKVILLE, Miss. - With winds blowing consistently out to left field at 19 mph, No. 12 LSU hit four home runs in the first five innings in a 9-2 defeat of Mississippi State softball. With the series win Sunday afternoon at the MSU Softball Stadium, the Tigers improved to 19-5 in 2013 (2-1 SEC), while the host Bulldogs dropped to 16-6 overall (1-2 SEC).
"LSU has gone to the Women's College World Series, and that is what we are working toward," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We grew up a whole bunch this weekend. Our fight is amazing."
LSU right-hander Rachele Fico went the distance to win the rematch from Friday's classic 14-inning pitchers' duel, picking up her 12th win of the season (12-3) with two runs allowed (one earned) on six hits and three walks in the circle. Mississippi State righty Alison Owen suffered the loss in 5.0 innings of work, falling to 9-3 after giving up eight runs on seven hits. Bulldog senior southpaw Kylie Vry pitched the final two frames, surrendering a run on two hits and a walk.
The top two spots in the order for MSU finished 4-for-7 (.571) with an RBI, while the rest of the lineup went 2-for-19 (.105). Leadoff hitter Jessica Offutt was 2-for-4 at the dish with two infield singles, while two-hole hitter Heidi Shape went 2-for-3 with an RBI sacrifice fly. Freshman Loryn Nichols (1-for-3, run) and sophomore Ashley Phillips (0-for-2, walk, run) were responsible for the two runs scored by the Maroon and White.
Roaring out of the gates courtesy of wind that gusted up to 30 mph, cleanup hitter Bianka Bell put LSU on the scoreboard first with a three-run homer in the top of the first. The Tigers doubled their lead in the fourth when LSU's Sandra Simmons and Tammy Wray connected on back-to-back home runs, extending the lead to 6-0 in favor of the Purple and Gold.
After LSU three-hole hitter Allison Falcon hit the fourth and final home run of the day to left field on a two-run shot, the Bulldogs countered with two runs of their own. Following a leadoff infield single by Nichols and a full count walk by Phillips in the bottom of the fifth, Offutt chopped a base hit to the shortstop. The late throw by Bell to first sailed high, allowing Nichols to score on the throwing error. With Phillips moving to third on the miscue by the visitors, Shape drove in the Water Valley, Miss., native with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in left field.
"I really loved our fight in the latter half of the game," Stuedeman said. "This is a Super Regional in our league every weekend."
LSU tacked on the final run of the game in the seventh with an RBI single by Jacee Blades up the middle, scoring Simone Heyward.
Starkville's team takes to the road Tuesday for a four-game spring-break road trip. The Bulldogs travel to Jacksonville State for a 6 p.m. contest on Tuesday, March 12, before playing a doubleheader at College of Charleston starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. The four-game roadstand concludes Friday, March 15, as the Maroon and White play Charleston Southern at noon.
For live in-game updates of MSU's spring break road trip, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team's Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU's official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.