For LSU softball to advance to its fourth consecutive super regional, the Tigers have to dominate in the circle.
For that matter, the same goes for Louisiana-Lafayette, Houston and Fordham.
Among the four programs competing at the Baton Rouge regional tournament — starting with the Cajuns and Cougars at 3 p.m. Friday followed by LSU and Fordham soon after — three have team ERAs in the top 20 of the nation. Only three other regionals feature multiple staffs in the top 20.
With the bevy of arms headed to Tiger Park, fans shouldn’t expect a weekend of high-scoring affairs.
What they can expect is a battle from start to finish.
“You’re going to have to play good softball,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “All these teams know how to win, they understand how to compete, they all won to get here, they all had a great season, so nobody is here by chance. They earned it and deserve it.”
None of the teams announced who their starting pitchers would be during practice Thursday, but first-year Cajuns (38-14) coach Gerry Glasco gave the closest insight into his plans, saying ace Summer Ellyson would likely pitch if they’re paired with LSU in the next round.
Fordham coach Bridget Orchard said whoever gets the opening nod may not play long. The Rams (33-21) used multiple pitchers often this season, sometimes even one for each time around the order, and there’s a good chance they do so Friday.
LSU (41-14) was furthest from declaring a starter after Torina fell short of announcing Carley Hoover as back in the rotation since sitting out the past two weeks with a back injury. If Hoover isn’t cleared, All American Allie Walljasper is more than capable of picking up the extra work as she’s done in four of LSU’s past five games.
“Whatever is given to us, we gameplay for,” Walljasper said. “We watch film and see what our strengths are compared to theirs and go at them with what we have.”
Lucky for LSU, a pitcher’s duel is where the Tigers feel most at home.
Seventeen of LSU’s games this season ended with three or fewer total runs scored. No other team in the regional had more than 10 such outings. LSU went 4-2 this year in games decided 1-0.
Fordham, though, could pose a bit of a changeup on Friday as the only team in the regional with a consistent spring of power to its lineup.
The Rams enter the tournament with 59 home runs, the 15th most in the country. And while it wasn't against SEC competition, their 5.46 runs per game sits well above LSU’s 3.96.
“Just play our game and worry about Fordham softball,” Orchard said. “(LSU) has two All Americans pitching. The coaches know that going in and the players know it and they watched these guys on TV a little bit, so we just say to embrace the moment and embrace the crowd.”