Czechner's one-hitter sparks 8-0 win over Nicholls
BATON ROUGE - Ashley Czechner tossed a one-hit shutout as the LSU softball team collected its 20th victory of the season, an 8-0 five-inning decision over Nicholls State Wednesday at Tiger Park.
LSU (20-5) scored all of its runs during an eight-run first inning. The Tigers were playing their first game at home since February 17 and won their 26th consecutive decision over Nicholls State (9-14) dating back to the 1997 season.
"What a relief to be home," head coach Beth Torina said. "We have the best fans in the country, and it was great to be back in front of them. It helps us play better, and we're happy to be back at home."
The Colonels had their best opportunity to score in the first inning. Ashley Bertot connected for an infield single to open the game, stole second base and advanced to third base as the ball deflected off the glove of shortstop Bianka Bell.
Two batters later, Ashton Bennett drew a walk to place runners on the corners. Czechner escaped the jam and registered one of her four strikeouts of the game.
LSU went to work right away during the home half of the frame. A.J. Andrews and Jacee Blades set the table with a single and a walk. After Allison Falcon grounded out into a fielder's choice, Bell was plunked to fill the bases.
Kellsi Kloss forced the game's first run with a walk, while Sandra Simmons followed with a two-run double into the left centerfield gap to extend LSU's lead to 3-0.
Tammy Wray and Dylan Supak connected back-to-back RBI singles to make it 5-0. The Tigers continued to put the pressure on as Guillory knocked another single to reload the bases. Two batters later, Blades belted a two-run double to left centerfield. Guillory scored courtesy of a wild pitch to complete the eight-run frame.
"All of our slappers are capable of swinging away," Torina said. "It is just about getting the right opportunity for them, and that was a good opportunity to show what Jacee is capable of doing. They did a really good job in the lineup, one through nine tonight."
"I was excited to swing away," Blades said. "I was able to do that because my team set up the situation for me. If the people weren't on base, I would have had to slap and play the smaller game. Since we were ahead, I was able to swing away. That helps my confidence definitely, and I feel better about that situation."
LSU improved to 12-0 when scoring a first-inning run. The Tigers also have outscored their opponents by a 36-4 margin during the first inning on the season.
That would be more than enough run support for Czechner, who went to retire 10 straight and not allow another Nicholls base runner until the fifth inning. She finished with four strikeouts against one walk and improved to 5-0 on the season.
Bennett was tagged with the loss for the Colonels allowing all eight runs on six hits in two-thirds of an inning. She dropped to 6-6 for the season.
"My primary focus was to throw a lot of strikes, not give up a lot of walks and to just throw my game," Czechner said. "Coming in the second inning with an eight run lead, I felt very comfortable. I was able to throw certain pitches that normally I wouldn't be able to throw. I was able to work them into my counts. The whole team definitely plays better when we have a big lead."
LSU plays host to No. 17 Kentucky for a three-game series at Tiger Park over the weekend. Game times are slated for Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at noon. All three games of the series 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.
Saturday's game will be carried live by Cox Sports Television and Comcast Sports Southeast with Lyn Rollins and retired LSU softball coach Yvette Girouard set to call the action.Friday and Sunday's games will have live video available inside the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live.
Every game of LSU softball will have live stats available at LSUsports.net/livestats. Fans can also follow every pitch via live in-game updates at the program's social media outlets @lsusoftball on Twitter and www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball.
The Tiger Park Ticket Office will open 90 prior to the first pitch. Fans can purchase tickets on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12.
A full weekend of promotions is on-tap for the Kentucky series. Friday's series opener will mark the program's annual "Gold Game" where all fans in attendance are encouraged to wear gold to support the Tigers.
On Saturday, LSU will celebrate Alumnae Day. The first 500 fans also can pick up a commemorative lapel pin honoring the Tigers run to the 2012 Women's College World Series.
As part of "Geaux Green Day" at the ballpark, the first 750 fans to Sunday's contest will take home color changing stadium cups for St. Patrick's Day.