LSU pitcher Carley Hoover was asked recently about the “one-two punch” in the Tigers batting order.
“I didn’t know who they were talking about,” Hoover said. “We have a one-through-nine punch.”
The Tigers’ productivity and versatility throughout the batting order has been a key factor in their rise to the No. 1 ranking in the country. LSU (36-4, 9-3 Southeastern Conference) takes that No. 1 ranking into a three-game against No. 11 Tennessee (29-9, 7-5), which begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Coach Beth Torina said she understood Hoover’s confusion, saying “one-two punch” could mean A.J. Andrews and Bailey Landry at the top of the order or Bianka Bell and Sahvanna Jaquish in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots — or just about any tandem in the order.
“I think that is a key that we have so many weapons,” Torina said. “One through nine is so strong that there’s never an off inning where we don’t feel like we have a chance to score in this inning because we’re at a certain part of the lineup. We have a chance to score every inning, no matter who leads us off or whoever’s up third.”
Bell (12 home runs) and Jaquish (14) have been the primary run producers. Jaquish has set the school record for multi-RBI games in a season and is on pace to shatter the record for RBIs, which Bell figures to do also.
Kellsi Kloss and Sandra Simmons follow Jaquish in what has been a static top six spots, but six players have batted seventh, four have hit eighth and three ninth. The productivity has continued through the bottom third.
In a sweep against Ole Miss last weekend, No. 8 hitter Constance Quinn had a homer and three RBIs in the middle game. A week earlier, freshman Emily Griggs led the way from the No. 9 spot by going 3-for-3 with a triple and an RBI, and Dylan Supak and Simmons were also key as the Tigers avoided a sweep with a 2-0 win at Kentucky.
“You can never rest when you’re on defense against our lineup,” Kloss said. “Every single batter is so different and they all bring something different to the table.”
Andrews hit her first homer of the season to spark the final victory against Ole Miss.
“We have speed; we have smart base runners; we have girls that can drop a bunt down and move a runner; power hitting,” Quinn said. “If batters four through six aren’t stepping up, you know the bottom of the order is going to get the hits that we need.
“We have power one through nine, no matter if it’s a slapper or a normal power hitter. No matter where coach places us in the lineup, we know we’re going to get the job done.”
Even though LSU wasn’t at its best in a 9-4 nonconference loss at Mississippi State on Wednesday, stranding 10 runners, it still outhit the Bulldogs 13-11. It was the second consecutive game and third time in the last five that the Tigers had at least 10 hits.
“I think we’re just really hard outs,” Andrews said. “The other team has to really be on their toes because you’re can’t really predict anything with any person on our team, and I think that’s what makes us special and hard to beat.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.