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Softball Series Preview: Florida State

The Tigers are just two wins away from the WCWS

Chris Parent (@chrisparent) / LSUSports

First, big thank you to Poseur for handling coverage for the last two weeks.

Roughly 14 days ago, LSU was limping into the postseason. Carley Hoover and Sydney Smith weren’t in the best of health. Offensively, the Tigers still hadn’t found their game and were sporting a very average record at the end of the regular season.

Things changed.

In the six postseason games, LSU has averaged a shade under five runs per game including five games where LSU plated six or more runs. A big cause of that, at least in the Regional, has been the bottom of the lineup. As James Bewers pointed out, the trio of Amber Serrett, Sydney Springfield, and Aliyah Andrews has combined to go 11-for-25 in the final three games of the series. Meanwhile Emily Griggs is on fire, going 12-for-18 with five RBI’s and six runs scored. This has all been backed by an LSU pitching staff throwing some of the best ball of the season, having allowed just 1.2 runs over the regional. Hoover has been particularly great, having allowed just one earned run in four appearances.

LSU is now just two wins away from making another appearance in the Women’s College World Series. To get those two wins, LSU will have to travel to Tallahassee to beat a very skilled Florida State team.

The Schedule

Friday May 26th, 4 PM, ESPNU, 107.3 FM

Saturday May 27th, 2 PM, ESPN, 107.3 FM

Sunday May 28th,12 PM ESPNU, 107.3 FM*

*If necessary

The Opponent

FSU started the year third in the polls and held the number one ranking from late February to mid-April. Perhaps the only “bad” loss FSU suffered came to South Carolina in a mid-season game and getting swept by then No. 5 Oregon in Eugene to end the regular season was not good. Aside from those, FSU has won every game this postseason, improving an already great record.

Like many elite teams, Florida State is balanced and talented, one of just two teams who rank in the top-10 in both hitting and pitching. The FSU staff is anchored by ACC pitcher of the year Jessica Burroughs (1.10 ERA, 9.6 K/7, .153 OPPBA) and Meghan King (1.50 ERA, 5 K/7,.215 OPPBA). There are not a ton of weaknesses with either pitcher. King is coming off a bit of a rough start, surrendering five runs in a win against Georgia.

The Florida State lineup presents it’s own set of problems, with the Nole offense ranking in the top-5 nationally in both slugging and on base percentage. The power in the lineup comes from Jessie Warren ( .948 SLG (!), 23 HR, 67 RBI) and Alex Powers (.624 SLG, 10 HR, 50 RBI). Florida State will also do its share of running with Morgan Klaevemann and Cali Harrold, who have 36 and 21 stolen bases on the year, respectively. Dani Morgan is another name to look out for, having registered a hit in every game this postseason.

What to Watch For

Hoover Time

In addition to having been the winning pitcher in LSU’s last three victories, Hoover has allowed just two earned runs in 25.2 innings surrendering 18 hits and striking out 17. As the lineups get tougher, strikeout totals may drop, but in the postseason run prevention is the one stat to focus on. Allie Walljasper will probably see some action and Sydney Smith should be ready, but it’s up to Hoover to be the rock that the Tigers need in these next three games.

Non-Stars Starring

While Bailey Landry (6-29, 6 R) and Sahvanna Jaquish (10-32, 9 RBI) have been productive this postseason, they are not the big story. The LSU offensive depth has been paramount this postseason and will continue to be for this weekend. Not everyone will have the Emily Griggs, Amber Serrett multi-game, multi-hit weekend, but the consistent performances from Connie Quinn (4-13 in the Regional) and Aliyah Andrews (5-13 in the Regional) will be critical. Last weekend it was Sydney Springfield (3-14, 4 RBI) who came through with a few big hits and while it might not be Springfield this weekend, perhaps this series it is Amanda Doyle or Elyse Thornhill. With such good pitching every hitter must be prepared to execute when opportunities are presented.

2016 Defense

As the Tigers offense and pitching has worked more in unison as it did a year ago, it also appears as if the Tiger defense from a year ago has returned. Since the start of the SEC Tournament LSU has committed 13 errors in nine games. So far, those errors have not been too costly as the Tiger pitching staff has masked any defensive deficiencies. Against such a good lineup the extra opportunities cannot be given, especially since the LSU lineup could struggle to make up those runs against an elite Seminole staff.

Estimated Outcome

Looking back at previous years under Beth Torina, the position this years team finds itself in shouldn’t be unexpected. Last year’s Tigers mildly underperformed, had to travel to a Super Regional, but found a way to advance to Oklahoma City. The difference this year is the quality of team. Florida State should not be confused for James Madison. FSU was a title contender entering the season and played like one all-season. Unlike LSU, Florida State basically cruised to this point. The Noles had a tough schedule (7th in RPI) and, even after getting swept by Oregon, had reason to believe they could reach this point. LSU has had a much different path and one that has succeeded of late due to cohesion. The offense and defense are clicking in unison. Throw in some opposition miscues (thanks Auburn) and here we are.

Despite this magical run, on paper, LSU isn’t the favorite. If LSU is going to advance it will come down to pitching. If one pitcher can go the distance, awesome. If not, the other two need to be able to pitch effectively. Offensively the Tigers are well positioned to take advantage of what figures to be limited base runners as production, as most of the lineup have been productive in the postseason.

It will be tough, but it only takes two to get to OKC.