Before the LSU softball team played its series finale at Ole Miss last Saturday, the Tigers had something of a come-to-Jesus moment, led by senior second baseman Constance Quinn.
LSU had scored three runs in its past five games. The No. 16 Tigers (33-12, 8-7 Southeastern Conference) lost four of those games and were shut out three times — including in both games of a Friday doubleheader against the Rebels.
But Quinn's attempt to boost morale did not help LSU avoid getting swept. The Tigers lost the series finale on a three-run home run. It was the second time in the series LSU lost in the final inning.
Even in defeat, LSU right fielder Bailey Landry believed the team meeting had value during the Tigers' most trying time of the season. As LSU hosts No. 11 Tennessee, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, it’s still not time to panic, Landry said.
“In the last game, a lot of things that we had wanted to work on, we did those (things),” the senior said. “We just came up a little bit short in the end. That’s not blaming it on one thing at all. We could have scored more runs or anything like that. I think it’s important as group — any group, anywhere — to re-establish your goals and re-establish motivation and just get back on that same page again and continue to flow together.”
Though it happened earlier in conference play, LSU hit a similar lull during SEC play last season, losing five of six conference games. The Tigers scored just seven runs in those five losses, including two shutouts against then-No. 1 Florida.
The Tigers were also shut out in three losses to Kentucky two weeks later. Pitcher Sydney Smith believes those rough patches last season ultimately propelled LSU to the Women’s College World Series.
“Every good team needs a stretch where they struggle a little bit,” Smith said. “You need adversity because when you get to the World Series, everybody’s good.”
Lately, the LSU offense has succumbed to not only poor at-bats against dominant pitching, but also to a fear of failing, hitting coach Howard Dobson said.
Even in home sweeps of Georgia and Mississippi State earlier in conference play, the Tigers weren’t exactly prolific on offense; they continued to rely on dominant pitching.
The offensive slump, especially for freshmen going through SEC play for the first time, caught up to LSU over the past two weeks. Even coach Beth Torina has made frequent adjustments to the lineup recently, such moving normal leadoff hitter Emily Griggs down in the lineup or utilizing a few different hitters as the designated player.
But as Dobson said, there's no easy fix.
“There’s no magic pill. If we had some magic dust, we would have (used) it a long time ago,” Dobson said. “You go through spurts of it. We did it last year, too. I was talking to some friends of mine who are also other coaches at other universities, and they’re going through the same things too. ...
“It’s hard to predict. It was a little earlier last year. Usually, you do have a spot where you (struggle). You just hope that it doesn’t happen in a big, long stretch.”