No. 1 ranked California rallies to turn back LSU, 5-3, in Women’s College World Series

California College Softball

No. 1 ranked California rallies to turn back LSU, 5-3, in Women’s College World Series

OKLAHOMA CITY – For awhile you wondered if the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, California, would be upset in the second game of the first session Thursday on the opening day of the WCWS at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

A determined LSU team (39-24) surprised the Golden Bears and scored twice in the second inning on catcher Morgan Russell’s bases loaded two-run single to  take an early lead. But the Golden Bears, who improved to 57-5, showed their mettle by tying the game with single runs in the third and fifth innings before scoring three times in the sixth inning for a 5-3 win, advancing to play Oklahoma 6 pm on Friday in the first of two games scheduled. Winners of earlier games involving Arizona State vs. Oregon State and Alabama vs. Tennessee will play at 8:30 p.m.

Russell’s two-run single drove in Allison Falcon and Ashley Applegate and came off winning pitcher Jolene Henderson, who improved to 37-2 on the year, giving up three runs on eight hits while striking out five. It was Jolene’s fourth WCWS appearance and her second win in the event.

LSU’s Ashley Applegate produced a season-high three hits in the game. She has reached base safely in nine of her last 12 outings. Applegate improved to 25th in LSU history with 140 career hits, passing Sara Fitzgerald who tallied 138 from 2001-04.

LSU junior pitcher Rachele Fico was the loser and is now 20-12 this season. In 5.1 innings, she allowed four runs (two earned) on five hits. She walked four batters and struck out six. Britany Mack hurled two-thirds of an inning, allowing two hits and one run.

After LSU pulled out to its early lead, California knotted the score 2-2 after Frani Echavarria hit her first sacrifice fly of the season in the fifth. Jamia Reid had an RBI single in the sixth with Britt Vonk walking with the bases loaded to bring in another run and Echavarria’s ground out scored the third and final run.

“Well, today was a great game for California,” said Cal Head Coach Diane Ninemire.”We fell behind early in the game but Jolene hung tough on the mound for us, and we really had a great combination of our power. But mostly our short game was the factor today that overturned the game for us. And it was just a tremendous effort by everyone on our team today to help the success of our program.”

Despite being behind, Henderson said, “Well, LSU has a really good pitching staff. In our team, we have a good hitting program. So we came up today and I got behind and I shouldn’t do that as a pitcher. But they’re such a strong offense, they come up on me. Like every inning, they’re ready to go, they’re ready to swing, they’re aggressive, and they want to come out on top just as much as everybody else, but we had a lot of heart. And coming from behind wins are stronger wins for us and they mean a lot more and we just want to.”

California improved to 8-2 all-time against LSU (2-0 this season). Cal also upped its WCWS record against the Tigers to 2-1. LSU fell to 5-5 all-time in its third WCWS appearance, while Cal improved to 20-20 all-time in the event and to 7-5 in opening-round matchups. The Bears improved to 3-3 this year when trailing after four innings and to 34-0 when leading after six

LSU Head Coach Beth Torina was pleased with how her team started out. “I thought we started out really aggressive.  I liked how our offense swung the bat today.  I think we have to give a lot of credit to Cal and their offense.  They were just really tough and they keep coming at you, 1 through 9 in the lineup…very tough to get them out the fourth time through. The only thing I was disappointed in was our defense.  I think our defense has gotten us here and has been the thing that's kept us in it this long.  I think if we clean a few things up and make a couple of adjustments, we'll be good to go for the next game.”