Beth Torina wants more than a sweep of the Purple & Gold Challenge.
With the start of the Southeastern Conference schedule only two weeks away, the LSU softball coach knows she’s running out of time to determine the best everyday lineup.
Torina said she’s still “trying to understand” her team and hopes to learn more about it when the No. 5 Tigers host two games apiece against Illinois State and Texas Tech this weekend in Tiger Park.
“We’ve got a little bit more of a stretch here where we can try and decide not who our best nine players are — but what the best nine is, that we’re going to put on the field for SEC play,” she said Thursday.
“I think (getting four wins) is truthfully secondary to our goal of trying to get the right personnel in the right spots.”
The most pressing position to fill is in the outfield alongside sophomore Emily Griggs and junior Bailey Landry, a spot vacated by former All-American center fielder A.J. Andrews. After experimenting with four other outfielders the past few weeks, Torina pegged freshman Amber Serrett and sophomore Sydney Bourg as the two leading contenders.
Torina said Serrett has “owned the offensive spot” with a .409 batting average and five RBIs, though the shortstop is wanting for experience in the outfield. Bourg, who has started four games in center field, holds the edge defensively.
“I’m still trying to find the right combination of who and when,” Torina said. “I think those two have really made a case for it, though.”
They’ll get another chance to prove they belong in the lineup this weekend, starting with a game against Illinois State (3-7) at 6 p.m. Friday. LSU (9-2) will begin a doubleheader against the Redbirds and Texas Tech (4-6) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday before ending the weekend versus Texas Tech at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Despite Illinois State and Texas Tech’s early struggles, the Tigers say they aren’t looking ahead to their SEC-opening series against No. 4 Alabama in two weeks.
“They’re going to be really good teams, and they’re going to be really well-prepared for us,” senior catcher Kellsi Kloss said. “Coach tells us every single time someone plays us that they’re bringing their best game and their best lineup, so we have to be ready for whomever we play. We’re not going to get any easy teams or freebies.”
But LSU will use this weekend to further tweak its lineup and batting order, which Torina hasn’t shied away from no matter the opponent.
After Landry and Griggs split leadoff duty during the first nine games, junior second baseman Constance Quinn has settled into the one-hole in the past two contests. She shares the team lead with a .500 batting average and reached twice as the leadoff hitter during the Tigers’ 5-0 win against South Alabama on Wednesday night.
“Trusting in the process is something I’ve been stubborn with ever since I’ve been here,” Quinn said. “I’m allowing the coaches to coach me and be a player, knowing that what they’re doing in practice is going to help me in the long run.”
Sophomore pitcher Carley Hoover said the team is still coming together 11 games into the season. As the clock ticks down to the start of SEC play, LSU won’t have many more chances to jell after this weekend.
“You’ll still see coach mix up the lineup a lot. We still have a lot of competition at all positions,” Hoover said. “I think we’re kind of dwindling down with that and trying to figure out who our everydays are going to be.”