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LSU Softball Weekend Preview: Tiger Classic

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LSU’s season begins with five games in Tiger Park

Finally, softball has returned to Tiger Park. Expectations for this team are high and starting today, those expectations can be turned into a reality.

Schedule

Friday 2/10 vs Oklahoma State @ 4 PM

Friday 2/10 vs Penn State @ 6:30 PM

Saturday 2/11 vs McNeese @ 3 PM

Saturday 2/11 vs Penn State @ 5:30 PM

Sunday 2/12 vs. Oklahoma State @ 12:30 PM

All games will be airing on SEC Network +

*Ed note: We are joined by CW Ross of College Sports Madness, who shares his thoughts on how the Tigers stack up with the SEC entering the season.

On the surface LSU appears to have lost a lot offensively, despite returning five regulars. At this present moment, how would you compare the Tiger offense to the rest of the SEC's elite teams?

Last year LSU was in the middle of the pack in most hitting related categories so I don't think the main focus of the team is hitting. I think LSU is a team built around pitching with a returning staff that last season ended with an impressive team era of only 1.89. Comparing LSU to the rest of the SEC I see them probably finishing this season in the middle of the pack again when it comes to offensive statistics.

The Tigers are behind Florida and Auburn in the polls and ahead of Bama, how big is the cushion between LSU and the teams above and below them in the polls?

I think LSU is close to the teams both above and below them and in good shape to get back to the WCWS again this year. The team did have some problems last season going through streaky play that resulted in losses but Coach Torina was able to right the ship and get them back winning . I look for the team to go up and down during the season in the polls but be near the top at the end of the season when it really matters.

From top to bottom what is the potential strength of the conference this year, and where do you see LSU ranking in that area?

The SEC is stacked with star pitching from top to bottom this season. Except for Florida, which is overloaded with pitching talent, I see LSU right up there with the rest of the teams with their ace returning starters, Carley Hoover (2.27 ERA, 225 SO) and Allie Walljasper (1.78 ERA, 93 SO).

Conference play doesn't start for another couple of weeks, but between now and the start of SEC play, what needs to happen for both the Tigers and the rest of the conference for LSU to be viewed as the top team in the conference once league play begins?

It all comes down to one thing- WINNING! LSU needs to have steady hitting, keep the fielding errors to a minimum and let their pitching keep the games low to mid-scoring and they'll win their share of games and be doing what they need to have a successful season.

What to Watch For

Experiment and Expose

On Tuesday, Beth Torina said she expects to see lots of newcomers in these early games. Nicky Dawson, Amanda Doyle, Sydney Springfield, and Aliyah Andrews are a few of the freshman poised to see early action. However, don’t dismiss returning veterans like Taylor Satchell, Shemiah Sanchez, and Randi Provost. The focus isn’t only which players will be used, it’s also be how they will be used. Expect a few different defensive alignments for this first weekend of play.

It’s All About Pitching

Not that there is concern about the pitching staff, but a strong weekend would help alleviate some concerns about other areas. With a solid group of teams coming to Baton Rouge, Carley Hoover, Allie Walljasper, and Sydney Smith will have to be on point in order to keep LSU competitive in what is a quality group of teams.

Into The Fire

LSU should be favored in every game this weekend, but that doesn’t mean these will be all run-rule victories. McNeese and Oklahoma State are coming off appearances in a regional, while Penn State put together a decent resume in the B1G. This slate of games gives some of LSU’s newer players a chance to face college level pitching. For LSU’s pitchers, it’s a chance to go against some better lineups, but ones that are manageable enough to where the staff can work off any early season rust without major consequence.

Estimated Outcome

There is a bit too much uncertainty to predict a sweep for this weekend. Not that it isn’t possible. If a sweep does happen it will likely be because LSU’s pitching cruises in all five games. The Tiger staff should pick up where it left off last season with, at a minimum, quality pitching that keeps LSU in every game. If the pitching does its job, the pressure falls to the Tiger lineup. Good news is that the inexperience in the Tiger lineup is going against three teams which all lost their top pitchers from a year ago. This is particularly good news for LSU’s veterans who should be able to make easy work out of inexperienced pitching. Perhaps the Tiger newcomers can also capitalize on the opposition’s inexperience. Still, the inexperience won’t just be at the plate but in the field as well with some players adjusting to new positions. When the weekend is complete LSU should be plenty pleased with four-of-five, maybe one by run-rule. For now it’s about getting new players acclimated and finding which winning combination works best.