OKLAHOMA CITY — LSU’s road to the Women’s College World Series featured a couple of important stops in Starkville, Mississippi.
It wasn’t just the wins the Tigers had there — two in a three-game series against Mississippi State and three in a run to a runner-up finish in the Southeastern Conference tournament — it was also the way they responded to the single losses on each trip.
LSU began the series at State with a 7-2 loss April 15 in a game coach Beth Torina said “we shouldn’t have lost.” The Tigers committed two errors, had just four hits and allowed six earned runs in six innings.
Torina got on her team afterward for not taking care of “the little things.”
“We realized it was up to us whether we were going to pay attention to the little things or not,” veteran catcher Kellsi Kloss said.
The next night LSU came from behind in the seventh inning and won in 12 innings to start an 11-game winning streak, and it has gone 20-3 since as it opens play Friday in its WCWS opener against Michigan in ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Tigers returned to Starkville three weeks ago for the SEC tournament. They beat Texas A&M, Kentucky and Tennessee to reach the championship game. After they lost to Auburn 7-1 in the final, Torina had an unusually long postgame talk with the team.
LSU had won 15 of 17 games and had played seven consecutive games against ranked teams. With the start of the NCAA tournament less than a week after the SEC event, Torina sensed a danger that the players were going to allow the loss to Auburn to overshadow how much the team had accomplished and even more importantly what it was still capable of accomplishing.
The players said the talk helped them regain their perspective and they went on to sweep the Baton Rouge regional and bounced back from an opening-game loss to win the Harrisonburg (Virginia) super regional against James Madison last weekend.
“It was a hard loss against Auburn,” infielder Sahvanna Jaquish said on the eve of the WCWS opener. “We didn’t give ourselves enough credit, and I think she wanted to tell us that we made it so far in the SEC tournament and we should be proud of ourselves.
“Even though we didn’t get the championship win. we accomplished so much and we showed so much fight and we really did make Tiger Nation proud.
“I think that really helped us build our confidence even though we took that tough loss.”
After finishing third at the WCWS last season, LSU’s primary goal this season was to get back to Oklahoma City and win the national championship. A midseason slide that ended in the series at Mississippi State and the loss to Auburn didn’t hinder the Tigers’ ability to accomplish their primary goal.
The start of the NCAA tournament is a fresh start for LSU as is the game against Michigan, which eliminated the Tigers from the WCWS last year.
“Postseason is a special time for any team,” outfielder Bailey Landry said. “(Torina) wanted to make sure we knew now that we were going into the heart of our season with regionals and super regionals and now the World Series that we remember the things that got us here and to remember to be a team.”
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.