The Tiger offense enters 2018 in reload mode. The days of Bianka Bell, Kelsi Kloss and Sahvanna Jaquish launching pitches into the outfield bleachers are over. Throw in the departures of Connie Quinn, Sandra Simmons and Bailey Landry, and the Tigers have seen many talented hitters finish their collegiate careers in Baton Rouge over the last two seasons.
Last year’s Tiger offense was average at best, ranking near the middle or bottom in most offensive categories. The Tigers were second in the SEC in hits and third in total bases, though just fifth in runs. LSU wasn’t much of a threat on the base paths either, ranking 10th in stolen bases.
Beth Torina said when camp began that this year’s offense might be more contact oriented, which could be indicative of how she feels about the power potential of this lineup, or lack thereof. A “small ball” approach isn’t necessarily a bad plan, but would reflect a notable offensive philosophy switch.
The opening night lineup could look something like this:
Aliyah Andrews (SO L/R)
The younger sister of former Tiger AJ Andrews, Aliyah Andrews proved to be a solid option out of the nine-spot last season, hitting .339 in 127 at bats. With some openings near the top of the lineup, Andrews would likely be the favorite to lead off. Like her older sister, Aliyah has speed on the base paths. Her 11 steals last season was tied for second most on the team.
Emily Griggs (SR L/R)
The lone returning senior, Griggs skill set gives Torina some flexibility with the lineup. A solid hitter, Griggs hit .314 as a junior, up from .294 a season earlier and her 73 hits were second most on the team. She also brings some speed to the lineup, having swiped double-digit bags each of the last two seasons. Griggs will probably figure somewhere in the top three of the lineup. She spent almost all of last season hitting out of the two-spot. Her speed might make her a leadoff candidate and her hitting ability might slot her third. Griggs has never hit for power, having never hit a home run at the collegiate level.
Amber Serrett (JR R/R)
Torina likes her consistent veterans at the top of the lineup. Serrett posted a disappointing .263 average and .328 on base percentage as a sophomore after hitting .304 with a .376 on base percentage as a freshman. The Tiger shortstop likely won’t hit double-digit home runs, but has enough hitting ability to keep the lineup moving and power for a handful of home runs and extra base hits.
Sydney Springfield (SO R/R)
Springfield tops the Tigers in returning power. Her .488 slugging leads the returners and her 10 home runs last season was tops on the team. Springfield did have a notably bad 3-for-39 stretch, and was out of the lineup for several games at the end of April but was able to find some more consistency late in the season and postseason.
Amanda Doyle (SO R/R)
Like Springfield, Doyle endured some tough stretches as a freshman, notably 4-of-47 stretch from March into April. Doyle did show some flashes of power last year, with four home runs and a .365 slugging percentage. The key for Doyle, as it is with Springfield, is finding consistency. If LSU is truly moving towards a more contact-oriented approach, it is more difficult to justify Doyle’s spot in the lineup if she has prolonged slumps.
Michaela Schlattman (JR R/R)
A transfer from Miami Ohio, Schlattman was the top hitter on the Red Hawks. As a sophomore she hit .337, slugged .608, and had an OBP of .408. The MAC isn’t the SEC in softball, so there is obvious reason to have some skepticism regarding Schlattman’s ceiling. It’s difficult to project how Schlattman will perform in the SEC, but her power numbers on a team looking for just that gives her something of an advantage heading towards opening day.
Becca Schulte (JR R/R)
Schulte falls into the same situation as Schlattman: Great numbers against not as great competition. Schulte is the rare JUCO transfer, just the second one to join the Tigers under Torina’s tenure. The numbers Schulte put up at Butler CC are incredible, hitting .433 with 26 home runs and 108 RBI in her sophomore campaign. Even though it was at the junior college level, it’s hard to see Torina not giving Schulte an early chance to see if those batting skills hold up at the SEC level.
Shelbi Sunseri (FR R/R)
At Media Day, Torina suggested that Sunseri still had some work to do as a pitcher. If that is the case, and Sunseri is as gifted as reported by Torina and others, the freshman would probably get a shot on opening day. Sunseri may not have the power numbers coming out of high school, but she has hit above .400 throughout her prep career, hitting .541 as a senior.
Elyse Thornhill (JR L/R)
Torina praised Thornhill on Media Day, saying the junior utility player was one the most improved players along with Maribeth Gorsuch. Thornhill has never wowed at the plate, but she has been one of Torina’s most reliable reserves, even with her playing time taking a dip as a sophomore. She isn’t going to hit for power, but if she can get her OBP to around the .400 level like she did as a freshman, it probably keeps her in play for a batting spot in the back of the lineup.
At Media Day, Torina did not have a lineup named, but didn’t feel that this was a problem given her plan to experiment with lineups early in the season, similar to the way she did last year. Some of the other favorites to see time on opening weekend would include:
Shemiah Sanchez (JR R/R)
After flashing a bit as a freshman, hitting .276 in a very limited 19 games, Sanchez dropped down to .233 in her sophomore season. The 2017 numbers don’t show a ton of promise, though Torina stuck with Sanchez for most of the season despite her struggles.
Sydney Loupe (SR R/R)
Loupe’s playing time will depend on what happens in the catching battle. Although Loupe has spent her career behind Kelsi Kloss and Sahvanna Jaquish, Loupe’s bat has never distinguished itself to warrant significant playing time, even as as the DP.
CC Caccamise (FR R/R)
Like Loupe, Caccamise’s time in the lineup will depend on the catching situation. Unlike Loupe, Caccamise is more of an unknown offensively. According to her bio, she hit .411 for her high school career though nothing is included about her power numbers.
Allie Walljasper (SR R/R)
No one will mistake Walljasper as a two-way All-American, but she has proven to be a solid option offensively. She hit .250 over 56 at bats with a pair of home runs and 38 RBI in 2017. Expect Walljasper to get looks as the DP, particularly if she isn’t pitching or if one of the younger players is in a slump.