Long Island University Brooklyn softball coach Roy Kortmann has hammered a philosophy into his players.
“A ground ball is a ground ball,” senior Ariana Lopez said following the team’s practice Thursday. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re in your backyard or you’re in the Women’s College World Series.”
The Blackbirds aren’t in either location, but the mantra still applies in Baton Rouge. That motto represents Long Island’s mindset as it prepares to face No. 10 national seed and Baton Rouge regional host LSU at 6 p.m. Friday in Tiger Park.
As the regional’s bottom seed out of the Northeast Conference, the Blackbirds (30-25) are clear underdogs against the Tigers (45-15). Just don’t tell them that.
“(LSU is) good team, no doubt about it. But we’re just as good,” Lopez said. “It’s anyone’s game.”
Kortmann, in his 21st year at the helm, praised his team’s resiliency, attention to detail and composure. Long Island got off to a rocky start, exacerbated by a 1-9 mark across back-to-back weekend tournaments.
But during that stretch, the Blackbirds faced ranked opponents like Florida State, Georgia and California, giving Kortmann confidence in his battle-tested squad.
“We played a real competitive schedule up front,” he said. “We’re 3-2 against the Big 10 this year. We got a win over Florida Atlantic, who’s top 25. We can play some ball when things go well for us.”
Things went quite well down the stretch. Long Island won 17 of its final 18 games en route to its 14th Northeast Conference tournament title.
Kortmann insisted the Blackbirds haven’t peaked — they’re still getting better ahead of their toughest test yet.
“I think we play well as a team in this type of environment,” senior Alyssa Gospodarek said. “Every one of us really steps up, and it’s good to see us come together in the end.”
Reunited as foes
Letty Olivarez has followed LSU sophomore pitcher Carley Hoover’s career since she transferred from Stanford in 2014.
Now a co-interim head coach at Arizona State, Olivarez mentored Hoover as pitching coach during her one season with the Cardinal. Two years later, the former teacher and pupil have reunited as potential adversaries.
“It’s awesome to be able to be here and coach against her at this point because I know the things that she brings, that type of energy,” Olivarez said. “We’ve been getting excited about being able to see each other again this weekend.”
She and Hoover spoke earlier this week, simply wishing each other luck in anticipation of their reunion. They exchanged pleasantries Thursday as the teams crossed paths between practice sessions.
Olivarez said Hoover has sharpened her mechanics and confidence, points of emphasis during her lone year at Stanford that got cut short due to a lingering stress fracture in her ribs.
There’s one more thing Hoover wants to show her old coach.
“She’ll get to see where I’m at now,” Hoover said with a grin Tuesday. “It’ll be fun.”
Seven LSU players landed on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s Division I All-South region teams released Thursday.
Senior third baseman Bianka Bell, sophomore utility player/pitcher Allie Walljasper and junior catcher/infielder Sahvanna Jaquish earned first-team nods. Jaquish was selected as a designated player.
The second team included Hoover and junior right fielder Bailey Landry, while seniors Kellsi Kloss (catcher) and Sandra Simmons (first baseman) were chosen for the third team.