After giving up 10 runs in back-to-back losses to Georgia last weekend, the LSU softball team wouldn’t want to face any other team in its Southeastern Conference tournament opener Thursday.
“It’s a great opportunity,” LSU coach Beth Torina said repeatedly as she exhorted her players who were gathered in and around the Tiger Park bullpen before practice Tuesday.
While most teams would simply want to get back on the field again after losing two games in a row, Torina and the 10th-ranked Tigers believe they have the best of both worlds: a chance at redemption in their postseason opener against the team that got the best of them last weekend.
Fourth-seeded LSU (40-13) will get its shot to do that and edge closer to perhaps hosting an NCAA regional when it faces No. 5 seed Georgia (37-18) at 12:30 p.m. Thursday in Lexington, Ky.
“It’ll be great to play a team that has some confidence against us,” Torina said. “But I think we definitely didn’t have our ‘A’ game against them last week.
“I thought, ‘How nice.’ You typically have to a wait a whole year to play somebody again, and we get our shot at redemption immediately this week. What a great opportunity for this team.”
Torina is eager to see how her team responds in the single-elimination tournament after dropping back-to-back SEC games for the first time this season, which came as the players were preparing for final exams.
“I hate making excuses, definitely, but at this time of year, these kids do have a lot on their plates,” she said. “Almost every team in the conference was dealing with the same issues, but we’re glad to be through it.
“They’re going to have a lot less to worry about, and they’re really going to be able to focus a little bit more and prepare a little bit better. I think we’ll be ready, and Georgia will see a completely different LSU team.”
All-America pitcher Rachele Fico is just one of the LSU players who welcomed the rematch with Georgia. The Bulldogs scored eight earned runs against her in 2.1 innings of their Friday night opener en route to a 10-7 win.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but we’re excited to get another shot at them,” Fico said. “Georgia played great last weekend, but there are definitely some aspects of our game we can improve on — especially in the circle. We just have to make a few adjustments.”
After getting to Fico, Georgia — which ranks first or second in the SEC in almost every offensive category — piled up 10 hits and scored nine earned runs against Ashley Czechner in a 10-5 victory Sunday. The middle game of the series was rained out Saturday.
“I think we have to have a little bit different plan in the circle for their offense,” Torina said. “We worked on that this week, to try a different game plan. Hopefully, we’ll get a different result.
“Georgia has a great offense, and we have a ton of respect for how they do things,” she added. “We have our work cut out for us. But Texas A&M has a great offense, and we were able to shut them down at times. So we know our kids can do it. We just have to have a little different game plan.”
The ability to stay away from long losing streaks this season makes Fico confident the Tigers can quickly get back on track.
“This past weekend was the first time all season that we lost two consecutive SEC games, so we know that we can bounce back,” she said. “We want some redemption, and we’re lucky to get them right away.”