POSTED: Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 7:15pm
UPDATED: Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 7:19pm
Baton Rouge, La — After wrapping up a season's long 10-game homestand with an impressive 9-1 mark, the LSU softball team returns to the road to face its first SEC Eastern Division foe of the season with a weekend trip to South Carolina. Game times are 5 p.m. [Friday], 1 p.m. [Saturday] and 12 p.m. [Sunday].
The Tigers (20-8, 4-1 SEC) have won 17 of their last 21 games dating back to Feb. 19, while South Carolina (19-13, 2-6 SEC) has notched an 11-5 record at home highlighted by taking two of three from Arkansas during SEC opening weekend.
Samie Garcia fuels the Gamecocks and has racked up 45 hits en route to a .446 batting average from the leadoff spot. The duo of Evan Childs and Chelsea Hawkins has teamed up for 14 of the team's 28 home runs in addition to 50 combined RBIs. Katelynn Howser has secured a staff-best eight wins in the circle.
LSU holds a 34-12 series edge over South Carolina, including 10 straight wins dating back to the 2008 season. The Tigers took the 2011 meetings by 3-2, 6-1 and 8-0 margins. Brittany Mack picked up two victories, and Rachele Fico posted a win along with a save on the mound. Offensively, Morgan Russell notched a 4-for-8 series with three RBIs.
"Every series is a challenge," head coach Beth Torina said. "Every time we go on the road, it's definitely difficult. We would love to play in the friendly confines of Tiger Park every week. We will try and prepare for South Carolina as best we can. Our goal is to attempt to come back from Columbia with three wins."
The Fico-Mack duo has tallied identical 9-4 records for the season. The pair also is ranked among the SEC's Top 7 in strikeouts.
Fico's 0.74 ERA entering the week is not only tops in the SEC, but the eighth-best ratio in the nation. Mack has won her last six decisions, including a 2-1 victory over Georgia Tech last time out. The senior right-hander has shaven 1.46 points off her ERA during the run.
Offensively, the Tigers look to welcome Juliana Santos back into the lineup after she has missed the last four games due to injury. As LSU's primary cleanup hitter, Santos has garnered 18 hits to rank second on the team which include base knocks in seven of her last eight outings.
Ashley Langoni has contributed a .296 batting average to go along with a team-leading three home runs and 18 RBIs. She also is climbing the LSU record book in a number of categories. The Pueblo, Colo., native needs two more RBIs to break into the program's Top 10.
Allison Falcon and Dylan Supak join Langoni in double figure RBIs. The duo has chipped in 13 and 11 RBIs, respectively. Tammy Wray broke a 1-for-23 stretch with a two-out, RBI single in the fourth inning that proved to be the game-winner during Tuesday's 2-1 triumph over Georgia Tech.
Seven of A.J. Andrews' 11 hits have come in her last six appearances dating back to March 9. She has raised her average to a .324 hitting clip and added four of her team-leading five stolen bases.
Off the bench, Jacee Blades has made the most of her time in the starting lineup. She has notched hits during three of LSU's last four games and reached base in three of her plate appearances from the leadoff spot during the Georgia Tech game.
"Jacee has been phenomenal and the spark for our team these last four games," Torina said. "She has really stepped up and done some great things. I'm really proud of how she has responded to the challenge."
First pitch for Friday's series opener is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT from Beckham Field on the South Carolina campus. Live audio and live stats are available inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. The game also will be carried live on Country Legends 104.9 FM in the Baton Rouge area with Patrick Wright and Matt Dunaway on the call.
Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball this season via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball  and @lsu_softball on Twitter.