Entering its first games away from Tiger Park, LSU currently sits with a 10-0 record, 7th in the coach’s poll, 8th in the ESPN poll. This weekend the Tigers will face several tough teams.
Weekend Schedule (All times Central)
Libby Matson Tournament
LSU vs. San Josè State, Feb. 22, 4:30 p.m.
LSU vs. Nevada, Feb. 23, 1 p.m.
Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic
LSU vs. Fresno State, Feb. 24, 4:30 p.m.
LSU vs. No. 3 UCLA, Feb. 24, 7 p.m.
LSU vs. No. 5 Oregon, Feb. 25, 11 a.m.
Scouting the Opponents
The main draw over these six games are UCLA and Oregon. Both teams are coming off WCWS appearances, and both played LSU during last year’s tournament, topping the Bruins and losing to the Ducks. Not surprisingly, both teams are off to a great start this season with the Ducks at 10-0 and the Bruins at 9-1. A sleeper team in this group could be San Jose State, sitting with an 8-2 mark but one of those losses was a tight, 7-6 defeat to then No.11 Tennessee.
The Tiger staff has been predictably awesome to start the season, but Hoover is on an entirely new level. In her last 21 innings she has struck out 27 while surrendering just one earned run on seven hits. Beth Torina has only used Maribeth Gorsuch and Shelbi Sunseri once each so far, and that probably wont change entering this weekend. Of course, Hoover’s strong start to the season will be quickly forgotten if she struggles in any of the last two games of the weekend. Expect the Tiger ace to start one of those games and at least be on call for the other game in the event a different starter, likely Allie Walljasper, struggles.
Where Hoover has set the tone for the Tiger pitching, Doyle has set the tone for the Tiger offense. Even though she is coming off an 0-3 performance against Oregon State, Doyle currently leads the Tigers in hitting, slugging and is second in on base percentage. Of course, Doyle got off to a solid start to her freshman season before hitting a slump. The sophomore doesn’t have to carry the full offensive burden, but a strong weekend would certainly establish herself as the premier bat in the LSU lineup.
These next six games make up the first real challenge for the Tigers so far this season. With the exception of Nevada, every team in this group has a winning record through ten games. All that said, the UCLA and Oregon games are the ones that are going to be the true litmus test for the Tigers, at least early in the season.
On the pitching end, don’t expect much to see Shelbi Sunseri or Maribeth Gorsuch. Both players will have more opportunities as the season progresses, but against this caliber of teams, Torina will probably rely heavily on Hoover and Walljasper.
Offensively, the Tigers continue to have some inconsistencies. Good news is that the top-4 of Aliyah Andrews, Emily Griggs, Shemiah Sanchez, and Doyle have formed a solid nucleus at the top of the lineup. The rest of the lineup is still a little up in the air but good performances by Amber Serrett and Becca Schulte provide some promise beyond the hitters at the start of the lineup. While every bat will be needed for those final two games, the core four cannot go cold over that stretch.
There is a decent chance the Tigers pick up their first loss of the season this weekend. Returning to Baton Rouge with a 3-3 performance or worse, would certainly be a disappointing outcome for the weekend. With that said, LSU could still come away from this weekend with six more wins. If that holds up, it would be clear the Tigers belong in the conversation as one of the nation’s best teams early in the year.