2022 will be another year anchored by the Tiger pitching staff, as has been the case for most of Beth Torina’s tenure. While last season was not one of the Tigers’ best years, ranking near the middle or bottom of the SEC in most categories, this will still be the group that will be carries LSU throughout the season. Last season the Tigers stuck with a four person rotation, and even with the graduation of Maribeth Gorsuch, Torina will still have at least three good starters to rely on.
The best news here is that the Tigers return their ace in Ali Kilponen. The junior posted career bests en route to leading the Tigers across most pitching categories with a 2.00 ERA, 15 wins and 124 strikeouts. Expect her to be the Friday night starter once SEC play rolls around.
Right behind Kilponen is the veteran of the group, senior Shelbi Sunseri. Although Sunseri was not as much a power pitcher compared to Kilponen, logging 84 strikeouts in 126.2 innings, she did have a 2.04 ERA and just 32 walks.
The question mark of the group is junior Shelby Wickersham. As a freshman, she posted a 2.29 ERA in 98 innings and looked to be matching that pace in her COVID shortened sophomore season. Things took a step back last season with a 3.68 ERA in just 53 innings, with opponents hitting .275 against her. If Wickersham can capture her early career magic, the Tigers have the makings of a very deep rotation for 2022.
Beyond those three, the Tigers have four other pitchers on the roster. Sophomore Morgan Smith tossed 18 innings last season with a 3.11 ERA and seven strikeouts. Sophomore Taylor Edwards had one shutout inning.
The new face to the rotation will be Raelin Chaffin. In her senior year at Oak Forest Academy in Amite, she had 145 strikeouts in 126 innings pitched. Chaffin was rated as the 14th best overall player in the country in 2021 and the 9th best pitcher in the country. She was a three time Pitcher-of-the-Year honoree for Airline High School in Bossier City. In her best season she had 274 strikeouts while posting a .85 ERA with a 21-3 record in 141 innings pitched. Torina explicitly mentioned that Chaffin will get a start for one of the games on opening weekend.
This upcoming staff might not provide the dominating numbers of Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper, but that bar is too unrealistic. Still, pitching has always been Torina’s expertise, and there is little reason to not have high expectations for this group in 2022.
The season starts Friday February 11 with the Tiger Classic featuring South Alabama, Illinois, and Central Arkansas with the Tigers facing USA at 3 PM on Friday.