FIVE QUESTIONS THAT WILL DEFINE THE TIGERS’ SEASON ... AND THE ANSWERS
Q: Who can replace Allison Falcon, defensively and offensively, at second base?
A: Second base is one of the major question marks, largely because so many players could emerge as the starter. LSU coach Beth Torina called sophomore Constance Quinn “the most athletic player on the team,” but senior Dylan Supak and freshman Sydney Bourg could both fight for time early.
Q: Can Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper help cut down on Baylee Corbello’s innings?
A: Corbello logged 199.1 of the 400.1 innings by LSU starters last season. Torina said she now plans to pick her starting pitcher based on matchups. Hoover, Walljasper and sophomore Kelsee Selman will all see time, at least early on. That should help keep Corbello’s arm fresher down the stretch.
Q: Will Sahvanna Jaquish be able to effectively replace Tammy Wray at third base?
A: Wray was as good as they come at the hot corner with only four errors in 95 attempts. Fortunately for former catcher and new third baseman Jaquish, Wray stuck around as a student coach. Jaquish was initially recruited as an infielder, so she won’t be too lost defensively. Add in Wray’s guidance, and Jaquish should have a decent year.
Q: Can LSU make it back to the Women’s College World Series despite its schedule?
A: Pitching will be key this season. Torina can’t rely on her offense to outscore the No. 1 nonconference strength of schedule. If the pitching staff performs well, LSU has the offense to make a title run. “These guys love the challenge and are ready for it,” Torina said.
Q: LSU ranked No. 7 in the SEC in fielding percentage (.970) last season. How can the Tigers be better?
A: Their success will largely rely on the play of the left side of the infield. Junior shortstop Bianka Bell led the squad with 15 errors in 2014, and Jaquish is still adjusting. Fortunately, junior Sandra Simmons is solid at first base, and all of the potential options at second can provide steady defense.
C: Kellsi Kloss
After splitting time with Sahvanna Jaquish last season, junior Kellsi Kloss will take over full-time, handling an all-underclassmen pitching staff, and she brings plenty of pop to the lineup after hitting nine home runs last year.
1B: Sandra Simmons
Simmons was a pleasant surprise in 2014, hitting .305 with three home runs and 37 RBIs as the everyday first baseman. She was also a rock defensively, making a mere two errors.
2B: Constance Quinn
Trying to replace Allison Falcon will be a challenge for Torina. Fortunately, Quinn could be the right sophomore for the job. She hit .317 in limited action last season while also stealing five bases in seven attempts.
SS: Bianka Bell
There was certainly no sophomore slump for Bell in 2014. She hit .337 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs last season, though she did make 15 errors.
3B: Sahvanna Jaquish
Jaquish’s freshman numbers speak for themselves: .341 batting average, 17 home runs, 55 RBIs. She’ll move to third base to make room for her and Kloss in the lineup, giving the Tigers more power potential.
LF: Alayna Falcon
Left field will be a position battle to keep an eye on after the departure of Jacee Blades. Falcon hit well in limited time last season (.462 average), but a handful of underclassmen will fight to nab a place in the starting lineup.
CF: A.J. Andrews
A speedy senior at the top of the order, Andrews stole 38 bases in 40 attempts last season. She is Andrews is the perfect person to set the table early and often.
RF: Bailey Landry
As a freshman last season, she hit .368 with three home runs and 17 RBIs, making the 2014 SEC All-Freshman team.
TOP OF THE ROTATION
There may be four potential starters on the 2015 roster, but Baylee Corbello will take center stage for most series openers this season. She certainly showed the potential to dominate during her freshman season, finishing 19-9 with a 3.16 ERA and 188 strikeouts. Corbello logged plenty of time in the circle, tossing 199.1 innings and 24 complete games last season. She’ll be the anchor for a young pitching staff.
Corbello won’t be the only pitcher with a year under her belt heading into opening day. Sophomore right-hander Kelsee Selman made 17 appearances in 2014, finishing 6-3 with a 2.86 ERA. Add in the hard-throwing Stanford transfer, Carley Hoover, and freshman Allie Walljasper, and Torina has four options to choose from on any given night. This staff may be young, but it should prove to be a strength for the Tigers in 2015.