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Softball Series Preview: Opening Weekend

LSU welcomes five teams to Tiger Park to start the season

At last, it is time for Tiger Softball. It certainly figures to be challenging task getting back to Oklahoma City, but one that this team is well set-up to handle.

The Schedule

LSU vs. Illinois-Chicago, Feb. 8, 6 p.m.

LSU vs. UT Arlington, Feb. 9, 5 p.m.*

LSU vs. Southern Miss, Feb. 9, 7:30 p.m.*

LSU vs. UMass, Feb. 10, 5 p.m.*

LSU vs. Syracuse, Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.*

*Part of the Tiger Classic

Scouting the Opponents

Only Illinois-Chicago qualified for the Tournament last year, after winning the Horizon League. The other four teams all finished the season with winning records. Based on record and conference, Syracuse figures to be the toughest opponent, but they went just 10-10 in conference play and were picked sixth in the preseason ACC poll. Syracuse hurler Alexa Romero figures to be the toughest pitcher LSU faces this weekend. She posted a 2.79 ERA and struck out 155 in 145.1 innings pitched.

Key Players

Michaela Schlattman

The Miami Ohio transfer and current LSU utility player seems due for a lot of playing time heading into this weekend. She mostly played shortstop last year, but with Amber Serrett locked into that position, Schlattman will have to find a home somewhere else on the field. If Schlattman is behind the plate for a good portion of the weekend, a position she hasn’t played since high school, it certainly would suggest Torina is going to make extra effort to get a lineup that is best suited to score runs, while potentially making some sacrifices defensively.

Maribeth Gorsuch

When Gorsuch got the ball around this time last year in what was her college debut, she surrendered five earned in 2.1 innings. Gorsuch improved as the season progressed, but there isn’t a Sydney Smith on the roster to step in should the sophomore pitcher struggle. Torina will likely give Gorsuch the ball at least once as a starter, and ideally, some additional times as a reliever. Gorsuch does not have to put up jaw-dropping totals, though she does have to show she can get through the early season competition.

Amber Serrett

Serrett’s numbers took a bit of hit in 2017 as a sophomore. As a freshman Serrett likely benefited from pitchers willing to deal with her over some of the more dangerous LSU hitters. That wasn’t so much the case last year. For 2018 Serrett will likely have to carry a larger offensive burden as one of the veteran returners. The junior doesn’t have to morph into a slugger over these next several games, just show that her hitting ability is consistent enough to keep the Tiger lineup moving.

Estimated Outcome

LSU will be favorites over these next few days and a sweep is a realistic target, even as Torina looks for chemistry in the lineup. Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper will be counted on, as they have been, to set the tone for the Tigers. Even with Hoover coming off an injury, confidence in the LSU ace should be high. Offensively, there are probably a few too many question marks to reasonably predict the Tigers will have multiple run-rule wins. A top of the lineup featuring Aliyah Andrews, Emily Griggs and Amber Serrett certainly has the makings of a decent nucleus for the rest of the season. The group that will have to step up are hitters four through nine. That group, which Torina has praised throughout camp, will likely feature the transfers, along with multiple sophomores and juniors. It’s not likely everyone in that group will start the season on fire, though one or two strong weekends from that group, combined with consistent production from the top of the lineup, should ensure the Tigers start the season with several victories.