STARKVILLE, Miss. — The LSU softball team ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in fielding percentage during the regular season, but it has been flawless in the conference tournament.
The Tigers have not committed an error, the first time this season they have played three consecutive errorless games.
“I think we’re playing a lot more relaxed and not trying to do too much, getting the lead outs and getting throws to the correct bags,” third baseman Bianka Bell said after LSU advanced to the championship game with a 3-1, eight-inning victory against Tennessee on Friday at Nusz Park. “Everybody is just picking each other up.”
Coach Beth Torina said the insertion of freshman Amber Serrett to the starting lineup at shortstop solidified the infield and helped trigger the turnaround.
“We have played a lot of games with this personnel,” Torina said. “We have a lot of experience with this (group) under our belts. We know our pitching staff is going to get outs for us. This team does not function well when they play tight. They are silly, funny, goofy kids when they play loose and relaxed.”
Power and speed
In her first at-bat Friday, Bell hit a long home run that crashed into the scoreboard near the top. Her next time up, the Tigers’ career home run leader dropped down a bunt and beat it out.
Before the second at-bat, leadoff hitter Sandra Simmons told Bell that Volunteers pitcher Matty Moss was starting batters off with her changeup, a pitch that might be difficult to drive.
“When she didn’t throw (the changeup) first pitch, I figured it was probably coming the next pitch,” Bell said, “so I dropped the bunt down.”
“And,” Torina said of Bell, “she thinks she’s fast.”
Tigers vs. Tigers
Seventh-seeded LSU will face fourth-seeded Auburn, which beat top-seeded Florida 2-1 on Friday, in the title game Saturday.
LSU and Auburn have not played this season, but they played four times last season and each team won twice.
They concluded the regular season at Tiger Park: Auburn won the first two games (2-1, 1-0), and LSU won the finale (7-1). They met again in the first round of the Women’s College World Series, and LSU won 6-1.
SEC tournament history
The Tigers advanced to the SEC title game for the first time since 2010, and they have not won it since 2007. Torina is in her fifth season, and her teams had won just one tournament game before this year’s three-game winning streak.