Simmons delivers two-out, walk-off RBI to lift No. 12 LSU past No. 4 Alabama 3-2
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Sandra Simmons delivered a walk-off RBI single to left field with two outs to vault No. 12 LSU to a dramatic 3-2, eight-inning victory against No. 4 Alabama on Thursday in front of a raucous 1,917 fans at Tiger Park.
With the win, LSU (38-11, 13-6 SEC) moved a game ahead of the Crimson Tide (40-8, 12-7 SEC) in the SEC Western Division standings. The Tigers have won six consecutive home decisions against Alabama going back to the 2008 season. The 1,917 fans was the fifth-largest crowd in program history.
Bianka Bell and Simone Heyward put together a pair of 2-for-3 performances, while Kellsi Kloss provided a two-run home run to spark a seven-hit attack for the Tigers.
Rachele Fico went the distance for LSU in the circle and improved to 23-9 on the season. She allowed two runs on six hits and picked up two strikeouts versus four walks. A senior right-hander, Fico is now six strikeouts away from passing fellow All-American Emily Turner for third place on LSU’s all-time list.
“It was really exciting,” LSU head coach Beth Torina said. “I’ll start off by saying Simone did a great job of starting us off and putting the ball in play. The slappers are such tough outs. They did exactly what we needed them to do. It was good for Sandra to come through.”
Simmons’ game-winner was set up by a Heyward leadoff infield single on a chopper to shortstop. LSU kept the rally going as A.J. Andrews drew a four-pitch walk. Jacee Blades reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners. Alabama elected to fill the bases and issued an intentional walk to Bell.
Two batters later, Simmons cranked a 1-2 offering that defected off the glove off a diving Danae Hays from her shortstop post and squirted into left field, which enabled Heyward to race home with the winning run.
“I was seeing her [Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina] well all night,” Simmons said. “I knew it was my chance to end this game. We wanted to be done with it. After I started having my intelligence to get on top of the ball more, I knew I could produce it. I had nerves, but good nerves to where I knew I could do it. I just wanted to be the one to end it.”
Traina was tagged with the loss and dropped to 17-5 on the season. She was touched up for three runs on seven hits. She added three strikeouts versus four walks.
Alabama had an opportunity to take the lead during the top of the eighth inning. The Crimson Tide loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. However, Fico buckled down and got Hays to foul out, which kept the score knotted at 2.
“That is one thing this team is really good about,” Torina said. “That is what I just told them. They never lost hope. They never had a doubt. They never second-guessed themselves. They have a ton of fight and I think that is the best quality this team has.”
LSU grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the fourth inning. After making a jumping catch to end an Alabama threat during the third inning, Allison Falcon coaxed a one-out walk. Two batters later, Kloss connected for a two-run homer, her fifth of the season, to straightaway center field on a 3-1 pitch.
Fico sat down the first eight Alabama hitters she faced. She added another run of eight consecutive batters retired ignited by the Falcon catch in the third inning.
Down to their final out, the Crimson Tide pieced together back-to-back singles from Jadyn Spencer and Leona Lafaele. Hays was plunked by an 0-2 pitch, while Andrea Hawkins and Kayla Braud tacked on consecutive walks to even the tally at 2. Fico regained her form and snagged a Haylie McCleney line drive back to the circle.
“My team had my back [Thursday night] big-time,” Fico said. “In the seventh inning, I got a little too anxious. We were able to get out of it, and we came back strong. We kept them off the scoreboard. I did everything I could to give my team a chance to score a run for us. We really came up big with it [Thursday night], and it was an awesome team effort.”