After a solid weekend against a&M, the No.13/14 Tigers face what is arguably their biggest regular season challenge to date: three games on the road against the No.5/ 6 Florida Gators.
at Florida, April 27, 4:30 p.m. CT, SECN
at Florida, April 28, 11 a.m. CT, ESPN2
at Florida, April 29, 11 a.m. CT, ESPN2
UF was picked as the pre-season favorite to win the SEC, and with good reason. The Gators have been considered the standard for the SEC for several seasons and this year is no different. Florida currently sits seventh in the nation in the country in pitching at 1.25. Although they have wins over ranked Michigan, ULL, and Baylor, to go along with just three losses in conference play, the Gators most impressive win may have been just this past Tuesday when they beat No.8/9 Florida State giving UF eight wins over teams ranked in the top-10 at the time of the matchup.
Players to Watch
LSU’s table setter must come through with a strong weekend for the Tigers. Against such a dominant pitching staff, with an offense that figures to be overmatched for most of the weekend, it is critical that Andrews do her part to reach base. Perhaps even more important, Andrews will also have to make an impact on the base paths. She leads the team by 35 steals and will need to use her speed to get in scoring position.
If Andrews is doing her job at setting up, the pressure turns to those hitting behind her to step up as well. In this case, that would be Doyle. By all accounts Doyle has become the top hitter on the team by finding the consistency that plagued her as a freshman. Her abilities will certainly be tested this weekend against a great pitching staff, though she will be expected to provide power, especially if the top of the order finds success.
Florida is maybe just as dangerous as the pitching staff, sitting at or near the top of the SEC in several categories. The big area the Gators find success is in walks, 64 ahead of the next closest team. If there has been an issue for the Tiger ace this season it has been walks, having nearly twice as many as Allie Walljasper while pitching just 6.1 innings more. Hoover may have to use a more ground ball oriented approach this weekend and do what she can to create short at bats that don’t set up the Gators for a free pass.
Even after last weekend, it’s difficult to feel optimistic about the Tigers chances this weekend. Last time these two teams played, at Tiger Park, LSU was swept by the Gators with Aleshia Ocasio tossing ten innings of shutout, five hit ball over three games. Throw in the struggles with the Tiger offense and the fact that LSU is just 6-6 on the road this season and things don’t look great. If the Tigers are able to take this weekend series, they will need the pitching to be outstanding as usual. On offense, LSU seems to do its best when they can score late. Perhaps after a second or third time facing the Gator hurler, the Tigers can possibly find some success.