It’s going to be different not seeing Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper throwing from the circle in Tiger Park. Although the Tigers will not be guaranteed two ace pitchers entering the season as they had the last three years, pitching depth in 2019 should not be a problem with five pitchers on the roster for the first time since Beth Torina took over the Tigers in 2012.
LSU’s most experienced pitcher is Maribeth Gorsuch. After a dismal freshman campaign, which she had an ERA of 5.00 in 28 innings, Gorsuch posted an ERA of 2.10 in 80 innings pitched as as sophomore. Gorsuch’s game was not strikeout heavy with just 53 last year, and she will have to reduce her walk totals, 23, but she is trending in the right direction in two seasons in Baton Rouge. At media day, Gorsuch spoke about how much she had learned since arriving at LSU, evidence of an improved grasp on the pitching strategy she had not acquired in high school.
The wildcard among the pitchers is sophomore Shelbi Sunseri. She is still currently listed as a pitcher on the roster and did post a respectable 3.68 ERA in 13.1 innings with six strikeouts. The lack of innings is more likely due to injuries Sunseri sustained. Every indication is that Sunseri will be pitching as well and has received glowing reports from Torina and her teammates. Several on the team have suggested Sunseri is the hardest thrower of the staff.
On media day, Torina specifically mentioned liking what she saw from Shelby Wickersham, the No. 9 player in the country according to FloSoftball. Wickersham won at least 19 games a season over her high school career, posted 192 strikeouts her junior year, and has pitched nine perfect games in her softball career. Wickersham is the daughter of former LSU quarterback Jeff Wickersham. Torina specifically cited Wickersham’s frequent appearances at LSU camps, noting that Wickersham is already well versed in the Tigers’ pitching strategy
Joining Wickersham in this class is Ali Kilponen. Her impressive high school totals include an 87-4 career record, with a .42 ERA and 273 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched as a senior. In her junior year, she posted a .47 ERA with 283 strikeouts. A 2017 article notes her pitching repertoire includes a riseball, screwball, and two-types of curveball.
Also joining the staff this year is Baylie Thornhill, younger sister to senior Elyse Thornhill. Baylie joins the Tigers after previously attending South Alabama, though still has four years of eligibility. She recorded 501 strikeouts and 38 wins in high school. There was no record of her performance with USA.
When Beth Torina has spoken about using the early season to experiment, it had mostly pertained to the lineup. This spring, there will be experimentation in the circle as well. Torina’s background is in pitching, so there should be confidence that she can mold one or two of the current pitchers on staff. Ideally, Gorsuch and Wickersham establish themselves as the go to starters, while the rest of the staff provide quality outings in relief. This is a fairly new situation for Torina and the Tigers, with many interesting outcomes. Ideally, ones that result in the type of pitching LSU has come to expect the last four seasons.