After brief two-game trip to Tuscaloosa for the SEC Tournament, the Tigers are back home to kick-off the postseason hosting the Baton Rouge Regional. The regional will have a very local flair, with three of the four teams coming from Louisiana. Let’s get into it!
Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns (44-10, 21-3 Sun Belt)
There is only one program in the state that can match LSU’s softball history, and that would be ULL. This year is no exception as ULL is the only other team in this group with a ranking. If recent success is any indication, the Tiger should feel confident having beaten the Cajuns in both meetings during the regular season. ULL’s backbone is its pitching with Kandra Lamb and Summer Ellyson both sporting ERA’s in the twos. Both are also high strikeout pitchers with Lamb having 149 punchouts and Ellyson with 173. At the plate Julie Rawls leads team in home runs with nine and RBI with 52. Ciara Bryan has a .426 average with 35 steals on the season
McNeese State Cowgirls (34-24, 18-9 Southland)
Winners of the Southland tournament, McNeese comes to Baton Rouge on a hot streak of ten wins in its last twelve games. The Tigers season opener was against McNeese with LSU winning 8-0. Like ULL, McNeese has two quality starters in Jenna Edwards and Whitney Tate. Neither have prolific strikeout totals, but with Tate’s 2.67 ERA and Edwards’ 2.45 ERA, they keep opposing bats in check. The Cowgirls have a versatile offensive threat in Cori McCrary who leads the team in OPS, home runs, and total bases and is second in steals and RBI. The Cowgirls speed is worth keeping an eye on with three players having stolen at least twenty bags this past season.
George Washington Coloniels (37-9, 23-1 A-10)
The lone Louisiana strangers, GW comes from DC after winning the A-10 tournament. The Colonies don’t have the most impressive resume, but they absolutely crushed their conference opponents. GW has a trio that can do some damage at the plate with Jenna Cone, Faith Weber, and Alessandra Ponce. All three post an OPS over 1.000 and are all near the top for the Colonials in terms of power categories. GW also has a trio of impressive starters with Sierra Lange, Megan Osterhaus and Weber, who pulls double duty at the plate and in the circle. Lange is the one to keep an eye on with a 1.72 ER and 199 strikeouts.
Keys to success
One, Two, then who?
LSU entered the season with a potentially deep rotation with four hurlers that each had a solid amount of college experience. The two names that have emerged as the clear top pitchers for the Tigers are Ali Kilponen and Shelbi Sunseri, who are one-two in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP. After that it becomes much more suspect. Maribeth Gorsuch hasn’t been able to build off the shortened 2020 and Shelby Wickersham seems to be regressing from the form she showed in 2019 and 2020. Beth Torina wont hesitate to user fewer hurlers, but it’s difficult to see how LSU wont need at least one or both of Gorsuch and Wickersham this series.
M.V.P (Most Valuable Pleasants)
The future superstar for the Tigers is Taylor Pleasants. She might not have the Sports Center Top-10 appearances that Aliyah Andrews has, but Pleasants have been the main driver in the Tiger offense, leading the team in most categories. She had a rough weekend in the SEC Tournament, only reaching base once via walk and, perhaps not surprisingly, LSU only won one game. Pleasants is due for a bounce back and she will absolutely have to be closer to the back of her baseball card if the Tigers want to make it out of the group.
It seems that every game the Tigers have found someone outside of the top portion of the lineup come through. Whether that be Raeleen Gutierrez, Georgia Clark, Ali Newland, or Taylor Tidwell. If the postseason has taught us anything it would be that run scoring opportunities are always at a premium. There figures to be a time when one of these players figure to be in a position to bring runners in. It is absolutely imperative that they are able to come through.
In spite of this being a tough regional, tougher than several in recent history, this is still for the Tigers to lose. Right now it would seem LSU and ULL are on a collision course for multiple games over this weekend. Torina led Tigers are not teams that typically go quiet in the postseason and this roster has the players to put the LSU through. What this likely figures to come down to is how the LSU bats do against the best pitching. There have been few too many games where the Tiger bats have been silenced and that cannot happen from this point onwards. Ultimately, the Tigers should make it through but it will take every game to make it there.