Ed. Note: This will be my final season providing regular softball coverage. Thank you to all the readers these past years.
The Tigers prowess at the plate was not one that was much to write home about last year, with the unit ranking outside the SEC top-5 in average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Throw in the departures of long-time starters Aliyah Andrews and Amanda Doyle and this unit is a bit in question heading into 2022.
Thankfully the cupboard is not entirely bare. Leading the Tiger offense figures once again to be shortstop Taylor Pleasants. Now as one of the more veteran players, Pleasants looks to build off a redshirt freshman season when she led the Tigers in OPS, home runs and RBIs and will be a legitimate candidate for SEC player of the year, having already been named to the USA Softball National Team for 2022.
Senior Shelbi Sunseri figures once again to be another big contributor to the LSU offense. Although she had a disappointing season at the plate with just eight home runs and 26 RBI, she has the ability to contribute double-digit homers and figures to be near the top of the lineup, at least to start the season.
Beyond those two, the Tigers boast a group of promising bats and will need one, preferably more, to provide consistency on offense. One of those players could be centerfielder Ciarra Briggs. The redshirt sophomore outfielder is likely going to hit lead off for the Tigers. While Briggs didn’t provide any eye-popping totals, she was second on the team in hitting, finished third in run scores, fourth in OPS and logged 11 stolen bases. With her versatility, Briggs has the potential to work in different spots of the lineup.
For power, the Tigers will rely Georgia Clark who finished second on the team in home runs with 10, while anchoring first base. She will need to maintain and improve on her offense for the Tigers to provide a semblance of a deep lineup.
The rest of the Tiger lineup is very much in the air. One bat poised to see regular playing time is Raeleen Gutierrez. Although she wasn’t a regular, she did post a .400 slugging percentage over 104 at bats. The challenge here is that Gutierrez position is first base, currently occupied by Clark, and on the days she is not pitching, Sunseri is usually the DP. This could mean the Tigers have to sacrifice offense for defense but that’s something to figure out in the early part of the season. Keeping in mind the Tigers were not a top tier defense last year.
Morgan Cummins handled a bulk of the catching responsibility last year but with a line of .186/.351/.277 leaves a lot to be desired. If not Cummins, Hayden Brown and Cait Calland also have experience catching but neither one of them provide a considerable boost on offense. Sophomore Ali Newland could also factor into the equation at catcher.
Taylor Tidwell and Danieca Coffey split time at second last year. Although Tidwell posted just a .154 average her .400 slugging percentage and .341 OBP suggests that the junior could be poised for a breakout in 2022. On media day, Beth Torina said that Coffee and Jordyn Perkins were also taking reps at third, the position Doyle left. Perkins, a junior, played just nine games last season going 2-for-8 with three RBI.
Outfielder Savannah Stewart also figures to be in the mix. After a promising freshman season, Stewart has seen a sharp drop in playing time in her last two seasons but as one of the veterans, figures to be a player who will see action early in the season.
As far as freshman go, the top name in the group is arguably outfielder McKenzie Redoutey who was the No.10 player in the country according to Extra Inning Softball. In addition to Redoutey, Torina singled out Baylea Brandon, the No.27 player in the class of 2021 according to Extra Inning Softball. Torina said both players will provide power and both will see time in the outfield.
In addition to those two, Torina praised Sydney Peterson for her defensive ability in the middle infield, likely at second base, and for the leadership she demonstrated as a freshman. Torina also highlighted the speed of freshmen Madilyn Giglio and KK Madrey.
Torina has never shied away from using the early schedule to mix up the lineup and with SEC play still weeks away, expect to see many different lineups in this first part of the season.