From LSU Sports
BATON ROUGE – Ashley Czechner racked up a career-best 15 strikeouts to spark the No. 9 national seed LSU softball team to a 3-2 triumph over Central Connecticut State to open the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional Friday as 1,432 fans gathered at Tiger Park.
The Tigers (41-14) moved their record to 4-0 during NCAA Regional action under second-year coach Beth Torina and advance to face Louisiana-Lafayette in Saturday's winner's bracket contest with a 12 p.m. first pitch. The Cajuns (44-13) garnered a 3-0 victory over Northwestern State.
Czechner was touched up for two runs, one earned, on three hits. She equaled her previous career-best of eight strikeouts by recording her first eight outs of the game via the strikeout and improved her mark to 11-1 for the season. The 15 Ks was the second-most by a LSU pitcher on the season only behind Rachele Fico's 22-strikeout effort at Mississippi State on March 8.
Central Connecticut State (35-13), the Northeast Conference champions making its first NCAA Tournament appearance, rode a steller effort in the circle from Laura Messina. She went the distance and limited the Tigers to three runs, one earned, on five hits. She tallied two strikeouts against one walk but dropped to 27-10 on the season.
A.J. Andrews turned in a 2-for-3 effort with two runs scored from the top of the lineup, while Bianka Bell and Allison Falcon picked up RBIs for the Tigers.
With the scored tied at 2-2 in the fifth inning, LSU scored the game-winning run courtesy of a Falcon RBI single with two outs. Andrews opened the rally with a leadoff single and moved into scoring position after a Jacee Blades sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Falcon laced a line drive into centerfield.
"Ultimately, I'm glad we're walking away with a win," head coach Beth Torina said. "I think that's most important. At this point, everybody in the tournament is a quality opponent. We're just happy that we were able to come away with a win. Messina threw a great game against us. Luckily, we were able to get the timely hit from Falcon, and we got some great pitching on the mound from Czechner that kept us in the ball game. At the end of the day, it probably was not our best game nor our prettiest effort, but we're walking away with a win and moving on in the winner's bracket."
"A.J. and Jacee do a great job of getting on and moving each other over into scoring position," Falcon said. "So, I know that when I get up to bat that I always have a job to do. I was really excited to get a chance to do that job, so I really am happy that they were able to do that for me."
LSU jumped out to a 2-0 advantage in the first inning. Andrews ripped a leadoff single and raced around bases after a throwing error by Messina on Blades' sacrifice bunt. The error enabled Blades to reach third base on the play. Bell platted Blades on a RBI groundout.
The Blue Devils took advantage of a pair of LSU errors to pull back to within 2-1 during the second inning. With two outs, Evie Renzell dropped a bunt in-front of the pitcher's circle. An errant Czechner throw followed by a fielding error by right fielder Simone Heyward allowed Renzel to score on the play.
"It's not my first error, and it's not going to be my last," Czechner said. "I made the error, and I just put it behind me. I knew I still had a ball game to throw. I knew I still had to go out there and pitch well to get the win for my team."
Central Connecticut State knotted the score at 2-2 in the third inning as Arielle Bruno lifted a solo home run onto the left field berm.
The Blue Devils put the potential go-ahead runs on-base during the fourth inning, but Czechner got Eileen Purcell to strike out looking to keep the score even at 2-2. The junior right-hander fired 19-of-26 in the first pitch strike department and sat down nine of the final 10 batters she faced.
"Ashley is a great pitcher," Torina said. "She has one loss on the year. She has wins against Alabama, Missouri and some great teams. She's a really talented pitcher, and she's capable of doing that. I'm so confident in her. She's been there and done that. She's won a national championship in junior college. She can pitch the big game, and she understands her mental effort that she has to put in to get us that win."
Every game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional will have live video inside the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net/live. The LSU games also will be carried live by the LSU Sports Network and Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area.
Single-game tickets for this weekend's NCAA Baton Rouge Regional are on-sale at www.LSUtix.net. They also can be purchased on-site at the Tiger Park Ticket Office. Adult berm/standing room only tickets are available for $7, youth berm/standing room only tickets are priced at $5.
Fans can follow every pitch of LSU softball via live in-game updates at the program's social media outlets @lsusoftball on Twitter and www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball.
2013 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional
Friday, May 17
Game 1: Louisiana-Lafayette 3, Northwestern State 0
Game 2: No. 9 LSU 3, Central Connecticut State 2
Saturday, May 18
Game 3: No. 9 LSU vs. Louisiana-Lafayette – 12 p.m.
Game 4: Northwestern State vs. Central Connecticut State – 3 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner – 6 p.m.
Sunday, May 19
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner – 1 p.m.
Game 7: Game 6 rematch if necessary – 4 p.m.