‘The old Bianka’ — LSU softball star Bianka Bell, once in a slump, is back in the swing of things _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU shortstop Bianka Bell (27) throws to first base before the start of the fourth inning against Illinois State, Saturday, February 27, 2016, LSU's Tiger Park in Baton Rouge, La.

Beth Torina knows Longwood may not be a household name in college athletics. But when it comes to softball, the Lancers can compete with the best of them.

They’re the final pre-Southeastern Conference hurdle for the No. 5 LSU softball team, which hosts Longwood for a doubleheader at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Tiger Park.

Torina said she has spoken with her team about not overlooking the Lancers (9-5) ahead of its series against No. 4 Alabama this weekend.

“Longwood is really a quality opponent. They’re a team that’s been in the postseason, a team that has done a lot of good things,” the coach said Sunday. “Our team will understand that and understand the importance of the game.”

The Lancers have reached the postseason twice in the past three years and topped 40 wins in 2013 and 2014. The squad even defeated Virginia Tech in last season’s Knoxville regional.

Longwood has given up more than four runs only once this season for a team ERA of 1.96. Junior lefthander Elizabeth McCarthy (5-2) has been the ace with 46 strikeouts, allowing only 11 earned runs through 51 innings.

The Lancers haven’t been a victim of the mercy rule this season — in fact, the Big South school’s five losses have come by a combined 10 runs.

“They’ve been playing with SEC teams when they do play against them,” senior infielder Bianka Bell said. “We can’t try to sneak past them, because they’re going to bring their best effort at us.”

Longwood has lost to both of its SEC opponents this year, by two runs apiece. Those opponents were Mississippi State and South Carolina, which have only five losses between them.

The Tigers (19-2) are riding a 15-game winning streak into the matchup, most recently outscoring their five opponents 58-8 in a sweep of last weekend’s LSU Invitational. Four of the victories came via the mercy rule, and LSU used a five-run sixth inning and a brilliant relief performance from sophomore Carley Hoover to rally past Louisiana Tech 9-6 in its lone nail-biter.

Hoover, who tossed her first career no-hitter against Tennessee Tech less than 24 hours later, earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors for her efforts. She notched three wins while striking out 26 and allowing only two hits in 13.2 scoreless innings.

“It’s awesome to have someone like that in the circle,” junior second baseman Constance Quinn said. “To have somebody like that on the mound that’s really giving it their all, that helps our offense and the rest of the team.”

The Tigers also got production from the entire lineup, especially the No. 4 and 5 hitters.

Junior catcher/infielder Sahvanna Jaquish slid one spot down into the cleanup role last weekend. She drove in nine runs behind a .692 batting average and extended her team home run lead by sending three balls to the left-field berm.

On the other hand, freshman Amber Serrett moved from the bottom third of the order into the No. 5 spot while displacing Bell at shortstop in three of the final four contests. Torina’s “shortstop of the future” displayed her offensive prowess as well, going 10-for-14 with seven RBIs.

But LSU can’t rest on last weekend’s laurels or fast-forward to Friday’s showdown with Alabama — not with Longwood coming to town.

“It’s kind of difficult not to (look ahead) because you want to look to the SEC opening. But you have to take it day by day,” Quinn said. “You can’t jump into that because you will overlook (Longwood). Then that’s when Longwood will come and give us a good game.”