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2020 Softball Preview: Lineup & Defense

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Offense looks to reload after breakout 2019 season

Aliyah Andrews

Prior to last season, offense was a sore spot for the Tigers, with the team frequently only scoring one or two runs per game. The 2019 Tigers were near the top of the SEC in most statistical categories. It was a balanced offense the pummeled opposing pitching with a blend of hitting, power and speed.

2020 might be a return to form for the Tigers, and not in a good way. With the graduations of Elyse Thornhill, Shemiah Sanchez, Michaela Schlattman, Amanda Sanchez and Amber Serrett, the Tigers lost five players that each had an OPS north of .800.

The Tigers still figure to have an excellent one-two punch in Aliyah Andrews and Shelbi Sunseri, both of whom were named preseason All-SEC.

In centerfield Andrews should continue to be a force at the top of the lineup. She led the Tigers in hitting with a .358 average and in steals with 47, good for second most swipes in the SEC. The only question here is if she is moved down in the lineup in order to capitalize on her hitting ability to drive in more runs.

In addition to being LSU’s top pitcher last year, Sunseri was also the team’s top hitter, leading in home runs, total bases, and slugging percentage. Her 60 RBI’s were the fifth most in the SEC. She was almost exclusively the DP last season though with several new starters, she might get more time in the field, likely at first base where she played in high school.

In her preseason press conference, Beth Torina stressed that this will be a very young infield, with four new starters for the 2020 season. The one returning starter is Amanda Doyle, who is shifting over to third after her three seasons at first. Doyle figures to be one of LSU’s top power options after posting an OPS of .842 with eight home runs her junior season. Replacing Doyle will likely be Georgia Clark. The number 16th ranked recruit in the country coming out of high school, Clark played sparingly as a freshman, but Torina singled out Clark on media day as maybe the most powerful hitter on the team. If not Clark, freshman Raeleen Gutierrez

LSU will also be breaking in a new double-play duo with new starters at second and short. The anticipated starter taking over for the graduated Amber Serrett at shortstop will be freshman Taylor Pleasants, who comes to LSU having played on the USA U-19 team. Sophomore Taylor Tidwell will move to second after spending 2019 as a backup shortstop.

Behind the plate, it looks like the Tigers will be splitting time between sophomore Morgan Cummins and freshman Cait Calland. Cummins played in 47 games hitting .267 with two RBI. In her senior year of high school, Calland hit .396 with 29 RBI and also played for a travel team that placed second in the USA Elite Select World Fast Pitch Championship.

Officially, LSU only lost one outfielder, Elyse Thornhill, but both corner outfield spots could be up for grabs early in the season. One incumbent is Savannah Stewart, a sophomore who took over in left field, finishing the year with an .895 OPS. Other veterans slated to compete for an outfield spot include Claire Weinberger who has been a reserve the last two seasons and Taryn Antoine who was the starter in right two seasons ago. Torina singled out freshman Ciara Briggs as another outfield option.

Torina expressed optimism that the new starters had similar power potential to last year’s team, though this year’s group lacked experience. It would be unrealistic to expect this many new starters to create the impact that last years group had.

Andrews, Sunseri and Doyle form a solid core, but will need help from a few of the newcomers for the Tigers to have a proficient offense in 2020.