The 2019 Tigers softball season was an interesting one. Offensively, LSU had the best season since Bianka Bell, Savannah Jaquish, and Kelsi Kloss were hitting 3-4-5 for most of the year, but fell apart in the last chunk of the season. Meanwhile, the pitching was solid throughout the season, although the unit lacked the overall firepower from years past.
There was not a ton of turnover on the roster entering the season, with three seniors graduating and a few others departing the program early. At the same time, the several of the players who made the biggest impact this year, Shelbi Sunseri, Amanda Sanchez, and Elyse Thornhill among others were really making a big time impact for the first time in their respective careers with the Tigers.
Even veterans who had more playing time entering this year also upped their performance in 2019, Maribeth Gorsuch, Shemiah Sanchez, and Amber Serrett are the first that come to mind.
Losing players who were regular faces during their four years, in the case of Shemiah Sanchez, Thornhill and Serrett, can’t be overlooked. Serrett was a four year starter at short. Although Shemiah Sanchez and Thornhill were more utility players over their careers, they did combine for 25 home runs this year, roughly a third of the team’s total output.
In a more practical sense, the Tigers will have to replace at least three starting infielders, an outfielder, and a catcher. That said, there can be some optimism for 2020. In the outfield, Taryn Antoine has plenty of experience over two seasons and freshman Savannah Stewart ended up leading the Tigers in hitting, despite not being a regular until the later part of the season. Incoming outfielder Ciarra Briggs was rated 14th in the nation by MaxPreps and figures to get a look as well.
The infield is a bit more of a challenge to predict, as Beth Torina didn’t rotate a ton of lesser experienced players into the lineup on a regular basis. Of the veterans, current freshman Georgia Clark and Taylor Tidwell would project as the favorites. Clark served as a late inning replacement at first base on a few occasions and also played in the outfield. Problem here being the one position the Tigers don’t need to fill in the infield is at first with Amanda Doyle. Maybe this means Clark or Doyle moves to third. Tidwell was a high school shortstop and will likely be given first crack to replace Serrett.
Morgan Cummins played a lot in her freshman season, but did not do a ton offensively. If nothing happens via the transfer route, the only other new catcher expected on the roster is incoming freshman Cait Calland.
If there is an area LSU should expect to see a notable improvement, it would be in the pitching department. By no stretch was the pitching bad this season, but it certainly was a drop from earlier years. Gorsuch in particular is due for a big senior season as she continues to trend up season by season. An overarching theme throughout the year with the staff was inexperience. The veteran Tiger hurlers set career highs in innings pitched and the freshman were going against college hitters for the first time in their careers. With that out of the way, 2020 looks promising for the staff as a whole. This time next year we could be talking about Shelby Wickersham being the best pitcher on the team.
The 2019 Tigers started the year with notion that this would be the year for the offense, coming off a poor 2018 offensive performance. That idea mostly came to fruition. That scenario now likely shifts to the pitching staff, with the entire unit expected to return and trending upward.
Offense figures to be a question mark, as it has been the last few seasons, if for no other reason than attrition. Veterans like Aliyah Andrews, Sunseri, and Doyle figure to shoulder load of the offense, but beyond those three there is uncertainty.
If there is one certainty is the Tigers’ will continue to stand as one of the elite team’s in the nation. Whatever deficiencies there are, there is little reason to doubt they won’t be a powerhouse again in 2020.