After a 4-1 start to open the season, the Tigers face what will be their toughest slate of non-conference games at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
Friday 5:30 PM - #9 Arizona (6-0)
Players to know: Mo Mercado (4 HR, 11 RBI, .650 OBP), Katiyana Mauga ( 3 HR, 13 RBI, 1.133 SLG), Danielle O’Toole (1.87 ERA, 18 K, .154 OPP BA).
Arizona likely enters this game with some revenge after LSU bounced the Tigers in last year’s Super Regional. Arizona has won all but one of its first six games this year via run-rule, with a combined 14 home runs. Mauga was one of the best offensive players in the country last season. Mercado could be another quality bat after a hot start to the season.
Friday 10 PM - Bethune-Cookman (3-2)
Players to know: Deidra Genera (.70 ERA, 18 K), Iesha Waters (.667 SLG, .529 OBP)
The Wildcats are predicted to win the MEAC this year and this squad should not be perceived as a pushover. Bethune-Cookman’s resume is not very strong at this point, but Genera certainly got off to a good start and the offense looks solid.
Saturday 5 PM - UC Santa Barbara (2-3)
Players to know: Sierra Altmeyer (2 HR, 9, RBI), Stacy Cavazos (2 HR, 7 RBI)
UCSB was projected to finish second to last in the Big West and are the only team in this tournament with a losing record. Nothing about the Lobos looks particularly threatening and the pitching looks particularly bad, entering the Classic with a team ERA of 6.38.
Saturday 7:30 PM - #15 UCF (4-2)
Players to know: Linnea Goodman (.625 AVG, .813 SLG), Shelby Turnier (1.62 ERA, 28 K, .148 OPP BA)
UCF made an appearance in the WCWS last year by winning the AAC and already has an impressive victory over Alabama this season. The pitching is the backbone of the Knights, having allowed no more than two runs in any of their first six games and have a team ERA of 2.95.
Sunday 11 AM - #8 UCLA (4-1)
Players to know: Mysha Sataraka (2 HR, 10 RBI, .667 OBP), Delaney Spaulding (.357 AVG, .714 SLG), Selina Ta’amilo ( 1.53 ERA, 16 K)
Offense doesn’t appear to be an issue for the Bruins early in the season, having scored five or more runs in each of their four wins. Pitching depth could be a problem as UCLA has deployed just Ta’amilo and Johanna Grauer through six games.
Stat for the Weekend
LSU outscored its opponents in last weekends series 42-5.
What to Watch For
Last week was five lineups for five games. Expect some experimentation, but not nearly as much as last weekend. Amber Serrett and Shemiah Sanchez seem poised to see some playing time either in the middle infield or one of the corner outfield spots.
UCLA, Arizona and UCF all look like locks to qualify for the WCWS this year. This slate of competition is significantly better compared to last week. These three teams have postseason aspirations and seeing any of these three teams in a Super Regional would not be surprising.
Start in the circle
The key for LSU to come away with those four or five wins will be the pitching. Carly Hoover and Allie Walljasper are going to have to be at their best. The unknown here is Sydney Smith. The freshman only had one appearance and was dominant. Against some tough lineups, Smith could be a valuable third arm if Hoover or Walljasper struggle.
The Tigers should come away from this series with at least two wins, but four should be the expected. Although the teams in this tournament are good, they are not the same balanced team LSU is. For the Tigers to do that, everything must click. Specifically, the defense which cost the Tigers a game last weekend. While these are not must wins, these are the same teams LSU will likely face in the later part of the season. A strong performance this weekend should leave the Tigers optimistic when they come across similar teams in the postseason.