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Softball Weekend Preview: LSU Invitational

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Three 2016 WCWS Qualifiers Come To Tiger Park This Weekend

Steve Franz / LSUSports.net

Following six straight away from Baton Rouge, the Tigers are back in Tiger Park for five games as part of the LSU Invitational.

The Schedule

Friday - Illinois State, 5 PM

Friday - Florida Atlantic, 7:30 PM

Saturday- Illinois, 5:30 PM

Saturday - #10 Minnesota, 7:30 PM

Sunday - Florida Atlantic, 1 PM

Sunday - Troy, 3 PM

All games to air on SECN+

The Opponents

Illinois State (6-5)

Players to know: Alyssa Wiebel (.406 AVG, .813 SLG, 11 RBI), Sarah Fink ( 2.08 ERA, 25 K, .277 OPBA)

The Redbirds are a solid mid-major squad. Although their record isn’t great they have played four ranked teams so far this season, knocking off then #17 Missouri. Meanwhile, they have already made good work of other mid-major schools they have faced this season.

Florida Atlantic (12-3)

Players to know: Emily Lochten (1.025 SLG, 8 HR, .400 AVG), Kylee Hanson (.91 ERA, 58 K, .162 OPBA), Amanda Wilson (.92 ERA, 19 K, 38 IP)

Although the Owls have an impressive record, they haven’t beaten any really outstanding teams this year. However, FAU is a powerhouse in the C-USA and has made a Regional in each of the last two seasons. The Owls are supported by an impressive group of hurlers, with a 1.19 staff ERA.

Illinois (8-5)

Players to know: Nicole Evans (.432 AVG, 6 HR, 17 RBI), Stephanie Abello (.405 AVG, 5 HR, 10 RBI), Taylor Edwards (2.13 ERA, 14 K, .276 OBPA).

Illinois is solid on offense, with five hitters above .400 on the season. The pitching isn’t nearly as exciting with a 4.06 team ERA. Although the Fighting Illini made a Regional last year and are off to a solid start this year, they don’t have a really impressive win and have losses to Georgia State and Kennesaw State.

#10 Minnesota (14-0)

Players to know: Sara Groenewegen (.66 ERA, 53 K, .144 AVG), Sydney Dwyer (.488 AVG, 2 HR, 18 RBI), Kendyl Lindaman (.786 SLG, .405 AVG, 10 RBI)

The undefeated record stands out and what makes it that much more impressive is the fact that most of those wins are against good teams. Minnesota is a balanced, championship caliber team, averaging seven runs a game while sporting a team ERA of 1.67. The Gophers also were a WCWS qualifier last year.

Troy (10-7)

Players to know: Becca Hartley (.353 AVG, 6 HR, 16 HR), Erica Davis (.294 AVG, 8 SB, .393 OBP), Rachel Rigney (2.87 ERA, 21 K, .269 OBPA).

The record might not seem overly impressive, but Troy did beat No.21 Pitt last weekend. Troy’s offense is solid but not great. The pitching staff features Rigney and Claire Graves both of whom have sub-3 ERA’s.

What to Watch for

Getting The Groove Back

After three underwhelming games, the Tigers need to have some dominant performances this weekend. That might seem like some indirect shade at the offense, but the pitching could use some improvements as well. Over the last three games the Tiger starters have not started out well, having allowed at least a 1st inning home run in two of the last three games. Offensively, the focus this week will be on the middle of the lineup. Sydney Springfield and Amanda Doyle are a combined 3-of-21 over the last three games and are critical to supporting the top of the Tiger lineup.

Fine Tune

Although all the teams coming to the tournament sport winning records, Beth Torina could be back to some mixing and matching in order to spark the offense. Maybe that means more at bats for Elyse Thornhill or Allie Walljasper. It could also mean Shemiah Sanchez, who has been one of the more consistent hitters during this stretch, moving up a spot in the lineup. It seems unlikely Torina would do anything with the 1-2-3 hitters as the trio of Emily Griggs, Bailey Landry and Sahvanna Jaquish has carried the team, but moving Landry and Jaquish down a spot in an attempt to add some consistency towards the middle of the lineup, while moving Sanchez or Amber Serrett to the second spot, shouldn’t be totally ruled out.

The Defense...Again

It appears LSU’s defensive woes have returned. After keeping the errors limited to begin the season, the Tigers have posted six errors in the last three games, 11 in the last 10. In total, LSU has 13 on the year, tied for 4th worst in the conference and just one error away from being tied for 2nd worst in the conference. With some winnable games, this is another opportunity for LSU to clean up its defense before a big Auburn series to open conference play next weekend.

Estimated Outcome

Like last weekend a sweep is certainly possible. Though unlike last weekend, this weekend should be judged in its entirety and not on a game or two. With Auburn looming next weekend, this slate of games is about getting prepared for conference play next weekend. Even if the Tigers fall to the Gophers, it will be quickly forgotten if LSU takes two out of three next weekend. Still, LSU should be aiming for four wins this weekend. This should be another series where the pitching shines, even against Minnesota. Sydney Smith has been LSU’s best pitcher of late and Carley Hoover is due for a big bounce back after her performance against UCLA. On offense, there will probably some new looks to the lineup, but as long as the top continues to produce at the level it has, LSU’s offense should be fine.