No. 14 Softball Back on Winning Track

by Matt Dunaway
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No. 14 Softball Back on Winning Track

BATON ROUGE – The No. 14 LSU softball team put its five-game losing streak in the rear view mirror en route to a pair of 2-1 and 8-3 comeback victories over Mississippi State Saturday in-front of 1,425 fans at Tiger Park. The crowd marked the eight-largest in program history.

LSU (31-9, 10-5 SEC) extended its home winning streak to 21 games and moved into sole possession of second place in the SEC Western Division after Arkansas (24-15, 8-5 SEC) lost its doubleheader to No. 4 Florida.

Tied 1-1 with the bases loaded during the seventh inning of game one, Morgan Russell provided the heroics for the Tigers. She ripped a 1-2 offering through the left side of the MSU infield to plate Ashley Applegate and hand LSU a 2-1 walk-off triumph.

Russell was questionable to play after taking a foul ball off of her nose Wednesday during game one of the Alabama doubleheader.

“How gutty was that performance,” head coach Yvette Girouard said. “Morgan had a great day today. We’ve got a lot of heart. It’s all about getting up after you’ve been knocked down so hard. We struggled a little bit today doing that, but the bottom line is we did it when we needed to.”

Applegate ignited the frame with a five-pitch walk and advanced to second base as Rachel Mitchell added a bunt single. After an Ashley Langoni sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position, the Bulldogs elected to intentionally walk Anissa Young to fill the bases and set the stage for Russell.

“I actually took it as an insult that they walked Anissa and put me up to bat,” Russell said. “I took it as they didn’t think I could get it done, so I just knew in my mind that I was going to get it done.”

Cody Trahan picked up the win in the circle and held the Bulldogs (22-20, 3-11 SEC) to one run on two hits. She recorded seven strikeouts against one walk to improve to 9-2 on the season.

Chelsea Bramlett provided both hits for Mississippi State. After a leadoff single to start the game, Bramlett stole second and moved to third on an Ali Bainbridge sacrifice bunt. She came around to score on a Ka’ili Smith ground ball to give MSU a 1-0 edge.

Trahan kept the Bulldogs in check and retired 17 consecutive batters after the Bramlett single. She allowed the ball to leave the infield on only three occasions and notched five of her seven strikeouts during the stretch.
 
LSU manufactured a run of its own in the fifth inning to draw even at 1-1. Applegate was hit-by-a-pitch and pinch runner Tiffany Shaw swiped second base. Two batters later, Langoni supplied the equalizer on a RBI-single up-the-middle.

“It feels good to finally win a game after we lost five in a row on the road,” Langoni said. “We came up and hit it in timely situations. Hopefully, this is a good start for us to start another streak.”

Mississippi State grabbed 1-0 and 2-1 advantages in the early moments of the second game. Langoni belted a solo homer to answer Bainbridge’s long ball to tie the score at 2-2 after three innings.

The Tigers surged ahead with a four-run fifth inning. Jessica Mouse and Mitchell set the table and moved into scoring position on a Kirsten Shortridge sacrifice bunt.

Pinch runner Katie Guillory used alert baserunning to score the go-ahead run on a wild pitch. After a Langoni walk, Young cleared the bases and cranked a two-run double down the left field line before Applegate capped the frame with a RBI-single to make it 6-2.

The Tigers tacked on two insurance runs during the sixth inning as Langoni and Young struck for RBI-singles with two outs to extend the LSU lead to 8-2.

“For awhile there, it was like pulling teeth and watching ugly paint dry,” Girouard said. “We finally started swinging the bats like we’re capable of doing. The difference today was primetime situations. We were able to get big hits and score a lot of runs [in the second game]. They outhit us, but that’s the game. You just have to have the right hits at the right time.”

Mississippi State strung together four straight singles to open the seventh inning and pull back to 8-3. Langoni gunned down a runner at the plate, while Rachele Fico forced Jessica Cooley to foul out into a double play to end the game.

Brittany Mack limited the Bulldogs to three runs on 12 hits and tallied four strikeouts against three walks in 6.1 innings of work before giving way to Fico.

Sunday’s series finale is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch. The contest will be broadcasted live on ESPN 104.5 and The X 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright set to call the action. Cox Sports Television also will carry the game live with Lyn Rollins and Kent Lowe. Live stats are available in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net along with in-game updates via www.twitter.com/lsu_softball.

The first 500 fans will receive a license plate holder courtesy of All-State. Tickets are on-sale now and can be purchased online on LSUsports.net, the official Web site of LSU Athletics. Tickets also can be purchased in person at the Tiger Park Ticket Trailer starting at 11 a.m.

No. 14 LSU vs. Mississippi State
April 10, 2010, Tiger Park

LSU HEAD COACH YVETTE GIROUARD

On if the team is about to win 24 straight…
“I don’t know about that. For awhile there, it was like pulling teeth and watching ugly paint dry. We finally started swinging the bats like we’re capable of doing. The difference today was primetime situations. We were able to get big hits and score a lot of runs [in the second game]. They outhit us, but that’s the game. You just have to have the right hits at the right time.”

On Morgan Russell‘s play…
“How gutty was that performance? She had a great day today. We’ve got a lot of heart. It’s all about getting up after you’ve been knocked down so hard. We struggled a little bit today doing that, but the bottom line is we did it when we needed to.”

On Mississippi State catcher Chelsea Bramlett…
“(Bramlett) is awesome. She is very good. She’s the type of player you would take her on your team in a second. Thankfully for us, she’s a senior. She’s had a very good career.”

On if she will start Rachele Fico tomorrow…
“We’ll see. I think so and have Cody (Trahan) ready immediately. I think for our psyche is we need to keep rolling and keep feeling good about ourselves.”

LEFT FIELDER ASHLEY LANGONI

On the wins…
“It feels good to finally win a game after we lost five in a row on the road, so this is a good start for us to start another streak. They outhit us [during the second game]. They had 12 hits, and we had six. We were able to come up and hit it in timely situations.”

CATCHER MORGAN RUSSELL

On her injury…
“Honestly, I don’t really think about my nose at this point in time. It’s not really that big of a deal. I’m going to be back in a week.”

On if she will have a procedure done next week…
“Yes, I am going to have a slight procedure Monday. It’s not technically surgery. They’ll put my nose back in place. Everything is fine. I will be back next week and ready to go.”

On if she will miss any games next week…
“We are not 100 percent sure yet. I will be back as soon as I can.”

On playing today after the initial indication was she probably wouldn’t play…
“Honestly, I did not let my nose affect me in any way. I think all good players with injuries can play through it if they put their mind to it. It didn’t affect me at all. I didn’t even think anything was wrong.”

On her big hit in the first game…
“I actually took it as an insult that they walked Anissa (Young) and put me up to bat. I took it as they didn’t think I could get it done, so I just knew in my mind that I was going to get it done.”

On if she thinks the team is back on track…
“Definitely, I’m 100 percent sure that our team is back on track. It’s the beginning of a whole new streak.”