LSU’s SEC Tournament run didn’t last long with a win against Ole Miss in the opener, and then a loss to Tennessee in the next round. Still, it was enough to earn the Tigers a national seed meaning Tiger Park will once again play host to a regional.
All Games will be Live on WatchESPN
Friday May 18th
Game 1: No. 3 Houston vs. No. 2 Louisiana, 3 p.m.
Game 2: No. 4 Fordham vs. No. 1 LSU, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday May 19
Game 3: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner, 12 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Winner, 2:30 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 Loser vs. Game 4 Winner, 5 p.m.
Sunday May 20th
Game 6: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner, 1 p.m.
Game 7: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner, 3:30 p.m. (If necessary)
All games will be on ESPN3
Fordham (33-21, 18-4 A-10)
Automatic qualifiers out of the A-10, the Rams fit the bill of a team that pretty much crushed in conference play. Their best out of conference win came against a Florida International team that lost in the C-USA title game. Fordham has three good hitters in Madi Shaw (13 HR, 40 RBI, .446 OBP), Paige Rouch (.311 AVG, 16 HR, 44 RBI) and Skylar Johnston (.624 SLG, .454 OBP, 12 2B).
Houston (36-20, 13-8 American)
The Cougs visit Tiger Park as an at-large qualifier from American. In addition to winning the conference the Cougars have good wins over then-ranked Baylor and Ole Miss teams, and lost by a run to Oregon and Texas A&M, respectively. Savannah Heebner is the top Houston pitcher with a 1.17 ERA, 145 K, and .207 OPP BA.
Louisiana-Lafayette (38-14, 21-6, Sun Belt)
ULL is probably the second most likely team, behind the Tigers, to make it out of this regional. The Cajuns best win of the season is an extra innings win over Florida. ULL’s top player is pitcher Summer Ellyson who has a 1.43 ERA, .173 OPP BA, and 199 K’s. Offensively, the Cajuns don’t hit for a ton of power, with no player posting an OBP over .500, but do have some speed with three players stealing double-digit bases this season.
Keys to Success
In LSU’s 1-0 loss to Tennessee in the second round of the SEC Tournament, Aliyah Andrews stood on second base with no outs in the first inning only to have the next three Tiger hitters fail to drive her in. That cannot happen over these next games. Especially since each team figures to rely on its most valuable pitcher as much as needed. A big focus will be on how Emily Griggs, Amanda Doyle and Shemiah Sanchez are able drive in runs with Andrews and Taryn Antoine hitting at the top of the lineup.
Did we mention the pitching?
The Tigers success in the series is going to be heavily dictated by the pitching staff, specifically Allie Walljasper. The good news here is that the pitching has been particularly good of late, having allowed no more than four runs since April 14th. Most of the responsibility will likely fall on Walljasper, with Carley Hoover having dealt with some injury issues the last two weeks. Still, it will be a team effort. With Hoover’s injury status, do not be surprised if Maribeth Gorsuch takes on substantial innings this round, and going forward. Even an appearance by Shelbi Sunseri would not be that surprising.
For LSU, these regionals can have a similar feel to some of the early season tournaments with some of the teams visiting Tiger Park not being on the same level as LSU. The results will ultimately speak for themselves, and in order for the Tigers to win the regional they cannot get lulled into looking ahead and thinking these next few games are just warm ups to the Super Regional. All three teams enter this round with confidence and likely knowing they are underdogs to the home team. That can come back to bite the favorite, if the favorite isn’t careful.
Although this is a solid group of teams, the Tigers should be able to make it out of this round and it would be definite disappointment if LSU doesn’t find its way to a Super Regional. Like always it will come down to pitching for the Tigers to succeed. Beth Torina hasn’t indicated if Hoover is healthy for the next round, and part of that is just gamesmanship. If Hoover isn’t available, Walljasper is by no means a poor substitute, quite the opposite actually. The loss of Hoover in this round would be a noticeable hit to the depth of the Tigers pitching staff, even as effective as Gorsuch has become this season. Offensively, the postseason generally finds a way to elevate someones’ play. Ideally it is one of players at the top of the lineup, but don’t look past a veteran like Amber Serrett or someone swinging a hot bat lately like Michaela Schlattman. The postseason has been an ally with the Tigers having made three straight trips to Oklahoma City. This year’s trip starts with taking care of business over these next few days at Tiger Park.