The goals for the 2020 LSU softball team remain the same: win the SEC, return to Oklahoma City, win a national championship. Although the Tigers are far from perfect they still remain one of the best teams in the country. A down season for LSU is a historic season for 95% of the other DI programs.
Both the coaches and DI Softball.com polls have LSU ranked 11th at the start of the season. ESPN ranks the Tigers 13th and LSU is 10th in Softball America. In the SEC, the Tigers were picked to finish third behind Tennessee and Alabama. Bama is the national pre-season number one in the ESPN poll. Washington was given the top spot in the coaches poll.
It won’t be an easy task staying around the top-10 for LSU as the out of conference schedule is more daunting than usual. This year’s slate has the Tigers facing ranked teams in Oklahoma State, ULL, Washington and Texas Tech. LSU also has matchups against 2019 Women’s College World Series qualifiers Colorado State and Sam Houston State. If there is a silver lining here it is that the Tigers only leave Tiger Park twice before conference play begins. One of those is a neutral site at the Judi Garman Classic and the other is a true road game at ULL.
The SEC schedule is mildly more forgiving, particularly for the away slate of games. LSU will make multiple trips to Tuscaloosa this season, first during the regular season against Bama and then for the SEC Tournament. But beyond the trips to Bama, road trips to Auburn, South Carolina and Ole Miss don’t seem too daunting. Home games against Georgia, Mississippi State and Missouri look to be winnable series. The Tigers also benefit from a slightly easier schedule the first half of conference play, giving them a good chance to make an early dent in the conference standings.
In order to manage this schedule, LSU must find its identity. Last year, the Tigers used a diverse offensive attack to bludgeon teams. The year before it was a two-headed pitching monster that shutdown the opposition. At the moment, it isn’t clear which direction this team is leaning towards.
There is a legitimate reason to be optimistic about this pitching staff. The combination of talent and depth to this group could result in big improvements from last season, and restore the Tigers as one of the elite pitching staffs in the country.
Offense is much more of a wildcard. Expecting the lineup to replicate last year’s numbers would be unfair, but even half of those totals would still go a long way. The veterans Amanda Doyle, Shelbi Sunseri, and Aliyah Andrews will have to take on a bulk of the responsibility on offense. However, another player or two will have to emerge as a solid offensive contributor in order for the lineup to be proficient throughout the season.
The pieces are in place, even if the strategy is not clear. LSU is equipped with a roster of some of the best players in the country, a brand new training complex, and a schedule that, if conquered, sets the Tigers up for a deep postseason run.
That path begins tonight in Tiger Park against Central Arkansas. First pitch is at 6pm on SECN+, with Lyn Rollins and Yvette Girouard on the call