Beth Torina, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in occupational therapy, was finishing her internship in the fall of 2000 when Stetson coach Frank Griffin called to offer her a job.
Torina hadn’t pursued a career in coaching. She said she hadn’t even really thought about it.
But watching his Stetson teams compete against Torina for four years, Griffin thought the former Florida pitcher would fit right in.
“When she was a player herself, she was very competitive,” Griffin said. “She wanted to win, and she worked hard to improve herself as a pitcher. She just had the characteristics you were looking for in someone to come in and help your program.”
The call from Griffin helped Torina find her calling.
On June 22, barely a decade after she entered the coaching ranks, Torina was introduced as LSU’s new coach. At 32, she became the youngest head coach in Southeastern Conference softball.
“I just thought my life would take me a different direction,” Torina said. “But then I realized how much I enjoyed coaching.”
Torina stayed only two seasons at Stetson before joining former Louisiana-Lafayette star Kyla Holas, her pitching coach at Florida, at Houston as an assistant for five seasons. She got her first shot as a head coach at Florida International, where she went 129-111 from 2008-11, leading the Panthers to an NCAA regional in her third of four seasons.
Torina might still be the FIU coach if not for a twist of fate.
On June 9, about three weeks after Yvette Girouard ended her Hall of Fame career, LSU announced that Patrick Murphy would be the school’s new softball coach. Three days later, LSU announced that Murphy would not be the coach after all.
Murphy had a change of heart about leaving Alabama and was welcomed back to Tuscaloosa with open arms. LSU’s search began again.
In came Torina, smiling and grateful.
She was happy to lead a program that made two Women’s College World Series appearances under Girouard, is a perennial contender in one of the nation’s strongest leagues, and plays in a ballpark nice enough to make most college baseball programs jealous.
If she wasn’t the first choice for the job, well, she was fine with that.
“She’s an overachiever, a tremendous person off the softball field and just a first-class coach,” Griffin said. “I think there are a lot of players who are going to have a real positive experience because of her, and I think LSU’s going to look back a few years from now and say, ?Wow, what a smart thing we did by hiring this young lady.’ “
Earning her keep
Torina’s earliest memories of softball were watching her father, Steve Dieter, pitch for a men’s travel team in a Florida slow-pitch league.
Her father was her first pitching coach.
“My mom (Betty Dieter) takes the credit for taking me and signing me up for Little League that day when I was in the first grade,” Torina said. “But the only reason we went was because my dad was a softball player and I used to go to all his games.”
Torina transitioned from slow-pitch to fast-pitch when she arrived at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando and, with the help of coach Diane Davidson, developed into a four-year letter-winner. She pitched well enough to attract scholarship offers from a number of midmajor schools, but the all-state right-hander went to Florida instead and made the team as a walk-on.
“She knew she wasn’t going to blow the ball by people, but she hit her spots and worked extremely hard,” said Larry Ray, Torina’s coach at Florida. “She’d throw strikes and keep the ball down and the ball in the park and give the defense an opportunity to make plays. I think what impressed me most about her was the way she studied the top pitchers in the country and her work ethic. She’s a pretty determined young lady.”
Torina earned a scholarship by her sophomore year, helped Florida win its first SEC softball title in 1998, and finished her career with a 60-43 record. She also made the SEC Academic Honor Roll three times, appeared on the Academic All-American third team in 2000, and was a finalist for the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Award her senior year.
In the Florida record books, Torina ranks third in innings pitched (716.2), fourth in shutouts (23), fourth in games started (105), and tied for fourth in career wins.
The risk of walking on paid off.
“I thought it was a lot more significant in my life that I actually earned that money by my performance,” Torina said. “It’s something that was always meaningful to me.”
All these years later, Torina said she can still hit her spots. She dares you to test her.
“Pick any spot on the wall 40 feet away,” she said with a smile. “I’ll hit it.”
Her husband, Nick Torina, would probably tell you he can hit the same spot from 60 feet, 6 inches.
The fact that Nick pitched for the the University of Houston baseball team from 1998-2001 gives him one thing in common with his wife. The fact that he hates to lose gives him another.
“We’re two of the most competitive people you’ll ever meet,” Nick Torina said, “whether it’s who can make the bed faster or whatever it may be.”
Nick Torina appeared in 83 games as a Houston pitcher. The lefty reliever helped the Cougars reach a super regional in 2000, completed his career as a four-year letter-winner the following season, and later served as a color analyst for Houston baseball games.
Nowadays, though, he’s a softball man.
“He’s going to know all about these girls,” Beth Torina said, “what they did in their last at-bat, what pitches they took and didn’t. It’s really nice to have someone that supports it that much as my partner in all this.”
Torina has moved into Girouard’s old office on the fourth floor of the athletic administration building, but she hasn’t had time to decorate the bare walls.
She has made one out-of-region recruiting trip already and has two more in the coming weeks, and she continues to work as an assistant coach for the Orlando area’s USSSA Pride pro team.
On the home front, she has had meetings with members of LSU’s support staff, including marketing, academics and facilities.
Her most significant move so far came when she lured Howard Dobson from Southern Miss to be her top assistant. Dobson, who spent the past four years as USM’s head coach, will mostly work with LSU’s hitters.
“He is one of the best offensive minds out there,” Torina said of Dobson.
Torina has come a long way since Griffin’s surprise phone call 11 years ago.
From her fourth-floor office, she can spin in her chair, peer out across North Stadium Road and see Mike the Tiger’s cage.
“Love it,” she said. “It’s awesome. I just need to get some purple paint in here.”