With practice underway, pre-season polls in, the start of the LSU softball season is palpable. After a trip to the Women’s College World Series last year, the Tigers look to be in prime position to compete for their first championship in program history.
Undoubtedly the backbone of a Tigers championship run figures to be the pitching staff which ranked ninth in team ERA in 2015 at 1.84.
#21 Carly Hoover (SO., RHP)
2015: 169 IP, 1.78 ERA, .217 Opp. BA, 2.48 K/BB
Hoover was the ace of 2015, leading the Tigers in pretty much every pitching category. Her excellence was evident from her first game in 2015, when she pitched one of her 15 complete games, striking out eleven. Of the 22 games Hoover started, she allowed three hits or fewer seven times. Hoover also proved to be a valuable asset out of the bullpen, leading the Tigers in saves with five.
One potential concern for 2016 is that Hoover saw a ton of action in 2015. She threw almost 40 more innings than the next closest Tiger, Allie Walljasper, and faced 721 batters, to Walljsaper’s 566. Additionally, Hoover does not have the huge strikeout totals when compared to other top pitchers. The SEC strikeout leader from 2015, Georgia’s Chelsea Wilkinson, had 266 where Hoover had just 174.
Keep in mind that 2015 was Hoover’s first full year starting in her collegiate career so there is reason to believe that Hoover will build on her strikeout totals while still being LSU’s go to starter.
#25 Allie Walljasper (SO. RHP)
2015: 130.1 IP, 1.83 ERA, .224 Opp. BA, 3.23 K/BB
If the Tigers want to make a deep postseason run, Walljasper will be just as much of a key as Hoover. Although Walljasper was not the workhorse that Hoover was, she was still very good. Walljasper had just four games where she surrendered three or more earned runs. She ranked 29th in the nation in ERA.
Where Walljasper fell into some trouble was when she couldn’t get hitters out via strikeout. She was a little more prone to surrendering hits, allowing about one more hit per seven innings compared to Hoover. Like Hoover, 2015 was her first season at the collegiate level so improvement in 2016 is certainly possible.
It will be interesting to see if Coach Torina opts to deploy Walljasper more and potentially cut down on Hoover’s innings from last season. Should Hoover and Walljasper maintain their level of play from 2015, the Tigers should still have one of the best one-two combinations nationally.
#19 Baylee Corbello (JR., RHP)
2015: 65 IP, 2.36 ERA, .184 Opp. BA, 2.44, 2.44 K/BB
One of the Tiger’s two spot starters in 2015, Corbello saw action in 16 games and began the season as LSU’s third starter but lost the role mid-season. In her limited appearances, Corbello led all Tigers in opponents batting average. While Corbello was capable of getting strikeouts, posting five or more whiffs in eight of her appearances, she also tended to surrender walks when she wasn’t getting strikeouts, allowing four or more walks in five appearances.
#12 Sydney Smith (FR., RHP)
The lone newcomer on the LSU staff, Smith was dominant in high school losing just one game over her career and posted three no hitters and a perfect game in her senior year. She was ranked as the No.17 ranked recruit of the 2015 class according to Full Count Softball. The most compelling storyline for Smith is how she is used this season. It seems likely that she and Corbello will compete for the third starter, but Coach Torrina has not tipped her hand to how she plans on deploying the freshman.