Kellsi Kloss didn’t gloss over the facts heading into the LSU softball team’s series against Florida.
“It’s no secret right now that we need to sharpen up our defense a little bit,” the senior catcher said Wednesday. “All of us are very good individually defensively. I think we just all need to put it together now and make it a little more cohesive and fluid.”
Fielding mishaps cost the No. 7 Tigers in their first two Southeastern Conference series, most notably when six errors resulted in as many unearned runs in a 10-3 loss to No. 6 Alabama. LSU committed six errors against No. 8 Texas A&M the next weekend, though it managed to overcome four blunders in Game 2 to claim its only win of the series.
But the trend came to a halt against the No. 1 Gators as the Tigers made only one error in each of their three losses. Instead of poor fielding, a dearth of clutch hitting doomed LSU in its pair of 3-0 losses in the Friday doubleheader and its 6-2 defeat Saturday.
“Our defense, I think, was a really positive spot for us this weekend,” sophomore pitcher Carley Hoover said. “We had the best defense we had all year this weekend. We’ve been working extra hard on that in practice. At least we can take away from this weekend that we had defense.”
That was one of two silver linings the Tigers (26-8, 3-6) found in the aftermath of getting swept for the first time in almost two years. The other derives directly from the Tigers’ repeated failures in the batter’s box.
Hitting coach Howard Dobson called the team “passive” at the plate as it hit just 5-for-40 with runners on base and stranded 25 baserunners in the series.
“Hopefully that will put a little salt in the wound there, stir their gut a little bit,” Dobson said. “Hopefully we can get through April and May and get on a roll. It might light a fire right here a little bit, might make them work a little harder and fix some things.”
The Tigers already have proved they can fix their flaws, at least in one aspect of the game.
They played crisp defense behind their pitching staff, which held the Gators in check most of the weekend. Junior catcher Sahvanna Jaquish gunned down two runners trying to steal second base in Game 1. Freshman Amber Serrett was error-free while starting all three games at shortstop. She ate up everything that came her way, finishing the weekend with eight assists.
“That was one of our keys in getting ready for this whole weekend, just to do a lot of things right and see it visually,” Serrett said. “Count the hops with ground balls and see everything ball-first. We really took that into this weekend and got much better with that.”
Junior second baseman Constance Quinn had a team-leading 13 assists despite committing errors that led to one unearned run in both the series opener and finale. The only other fielding mishap fell on senior third baseman Bianka Bell, but coach Beth Torina said she was pleased with her team’s defensive performance.
“We played much better defense,” she said Friday. “I think a lot of the things we worked on this week in practice showed up. They definitely accomplished some of the things we set out to do.”
With no midweek game looming, the Tigers can take a weeklong breath amid the SEC gauntlet. LSU hopes to carry over its success in the field into next weekend’s series at No. 12 Georgia, the fourth top-15 team it will face in as many weekends.
But the Tigers know their pristine defense will go to waste if their problems at the plate persist.
“Instead of thinking that we’re good enough to (win a national championship) right now, maybe we’ll go back to work a little bit,” Dobson said. “Sometimes the blessings, the silver lining is there. We’re just hoping that’s it.”