The LSU softball team has four pitchers that can keep opposing hitters off balance.
And that makes it easy for Tigers coach Beth Torina to keep opposing coaches off balance.
Torina is comfortable handing the ball to sophomores Baylee Corbello (9-2, 2.36 earned run average) and Kelsee Selman (8-0, 1.66) and freshmen Carley Hoover (14-4, 1.75) and Allie Walljasper (13-4, 1.52) in any situation.
She often doesn’t settle on a starter for a particular team until late on gameday, which seems to have been the case heading into fourth-seeded LSU’s first game in the Southeastern Conference tournament against fifth-seeded Tennessee on Thursday evening at Tiger Park.
Torina didn’t find out until Wednesday night that the Tigers would be facing the Volunteers (40-13), who defeated 12th-seeded Kentucky 5-4 in the last first-round game.
“I think I’ll just continue to match up,” Torina said before knowing her opponent. “If somebody did really well against somebody in the regular season we’ll continue to stay with that and then we’ll use everybody as need be.”
Reading the tea leaves, Torina might lean toward Hoover or Walljasper.
Hoover got a complete-game victory in the series opener at Tennessee on April 10, allowing seven hits and one run. She had less success in the finale, allowing five hits and three runs in 3.2 innings after relieving Corbello, who got the loss after yielding five hits and five runs (four earned) in 2.1 innings.
Walljasper allowed five hits and two runs (none earned) in 3.2 innings before being relieved by Selman, who got the victory in the second game after allowing three hits and two runs in 1.1 innings.
But regardless of who starts against Tennessee, all four will be in the mix as long as the Tigers are in the single-elimination tournament.
“I think at this time of year, it’s a little quicker hook,” Torina said. “So I think everybody is going to be important, everybody is going to be involved and I think they’re all throwing well right now.”
Hoover, who was named to the All-SEC and All-Freshman teams Tuesday, was the conference’s pitcher of the week last week after pitching one complete game at Missouri and two against Auburn.
Walljasper took the loss in the middle game against Auburn, but allowed just one hit — a home run in a 1-0 loss.
“This is why I play in the SEC and this is why we do what we do in practice every day — to prepare for teams like this,” Hoover said.
Though the Tigers won two out of three against Tennessee, the Volunteers’ hitting got Torina’s attention after they totaled 25 hits, 13 runs and three home runs.
“Tennessee to me has the most powerful offense that we faced,” Torina said. “They gave us the most problems offensively. I think one through nine in their lineup they’re capable of hitting the ball out. There are other teams in the conference that can do that as well, but Tennessee when we played them just seemed so athletic and so capable of doing that throughout the lineup that they’re definitely a scary offense to face.”
LSU, which lost five of its last eight regular-season games, fell behind in the first inning of each of its last three losses.
“I think we’re a team of momentum,” Torina said. “When things start happening for us we really keep them rolling. Obviously scoring first is a huge deal and that’s on our pitching staff too, being able to hold teams down the first few innings and give us a chance to score.”
In the Tigers last five losses, nine of the 25 runs they have allowed have been unearned.
“Postseason is crunch time and you can’t give a team anything,” outfielder A.J. Andrews said. “If you give them a little they’re going to take a lot.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.