Relive LSU basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics' big weekend wins with photos, analysis _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU starting pitcher Carley Hoover fires to the plate against Arkansas on March 6 at Tiger Park. The Tigers host No. 6 Oklahoma for a two-game series this weekend.

Carley Hoover had a fan girl moment.

Named the 2013 Gatorade South Carolina Player of the Year after her senior year at D.W. Daniel High School, Hoover was invited to attend the ESPYs. Mingling among the crowd, she spotted Oklahoma’s now-departed stalwart left-hander Keilani Ricketts and now-senior infielder Lauren Chamberlain, who were there to celebrate the Sooners’ 2013 national championship.

“They weren’t really paying attention to me, right? So I think I finally caught their attention,” Hoover remembered. “I was taking pictures with them and told them ‘I’ll see you on the field next year.’

“They were like ‘What? Who is this,’ ” she said. “I felt creepy.”

Two years and two colleges later, Hoover will make good on her promise. The Stanford transfer is one of four LSU pitchers tasked with silencing the powerful Sooner bats, led by Chamberlain, in a two-game series at Tiger Park beginning at 6 p.m. Friday.

Carrying an NCAA-leading .408 team batting average into Baton Rouge, the No. 6 Sooners personify the program LSU coach Beth Torina hopes her team can one day stake its name to.

“Oklahoma quite possibly could be the best team on the schedule. Unbelievable offensive numbers coming in here,” Torina said. “They’re truly in a spot we want to be. They’re in the top 10 year in and year out, and that’s something this program strives to be.”

That’s not to discredit the Tigers’ lofty accomplishment thus far, though.

Torina’s bunch is the newly crowned No. 1 team in the country — a first in program history — after taking two of three from previously unbeaten and No. 1 Florida in Gainesville last weekend.

Often quick to deflect praise or superlatives about her team and focus on the next team up, Torina took a bit of a different tone this week, meeting with her team to put their historical achievement into perspective.

“I wanted to make sure they knew how to handle it,” Torina said. “Practice has been business as usual and our preparation for Oklahoma has been business as usual, but ... it’s about respecting the history-making moments in this program.”

The top spot is just one step in a work in progress, Torina said, though she was quick to praise her predecessor, Yvette Girouard. The two speak frequently and it was a happy phone call earlier this week when the rankings were unveiled.

“She’s so proud of us,” Torina said of Girouard. “She’s so proud of this program. I think she understands the role she played and how important it was. She just still considers this her program and she’s so proud of the way we’re performing.”

Girouard was instrumental in recruiting some of this current LSU roster, including Hoover when she was still in high school and junior infielder Bianka Bell, who began her recruitment process in eighth grade.

Bell, now LSU’s career leader in home runs, doesn’t recall many of the visits or what was said, but said it came down to a few Southeastern Conference programs.

Hoover spent one year at Stanford. Her re-recruitment opened and Torina’s pitching prowess won her over, making the SEC transfer an easy choice.

The duo agreed on another reason LSU was the right choice.

“It’s just a given we could have been No. 1 here,” Hoover said.