Beth Torina doesn’t need her players to be perfect during their season-opening five-game run this weekend. By her estimation, they won’t need to be perfect until the postseason.
All LSU’s softball coach wants instead is simple: five wins.
The No. 3 Tigers will begin their quest for a repeat appearance in the Women’s College World Series with a doubleheader against Ohio State and North Florida at 5 p.m. Friday in Tiger Park.
LSU will follow that with a pair of Saturday games against Connecticut and Pacific before wrapping up the Tiger Classic with a rematch against Pacific on Sunday.
“We’re not looking for perfection this weekend,” Torina said Wednesday. “We just have to be better than Ohio State, North Florida or whoever is on the other side of the field. I think we’re still trying to play our best game in June.”
Sophomore outfielder Emily Griggs agreed with her coach’s message but added she and her teammates have “some unfinished business” lingering from last year. In a breakout season that began with a 25-game winning streak, the Tigers used lockdown pitching and an explosive offense to reach the WCWS semifinals.
But LSU isn’t trying to pick up where it left off in 2015 or even replicate its hot start. All that matters to the Tigers at this junction is beating the opposition.
“We’re not trying to play our best softball until May and June, so we’re out here working and trying to be better than the other team,” senior shortstop Bianka Bell said. “We’re trying to play our softball for now, get the job done and get these Ws out of the way.”
Though LSU returns most of last season’s squad, Torina stressed last week that this club is different. Rather than pressing her players to be perfect from the get-go, the coach is leaving room for growth and for the team to craft its own identity.
“I think if we go out and try to play perfect softball, we’re not going to be very successful,” Torina said. “But if we go out and try to do things well and continue to build and grow, we’ll be in a good spot.”
Juanita, the Tigers’ self-proclaimed “Rallyfish” that gained popularity during the team’s WCWS run last season, is alive and well.
The same can’t be said for her late fish-tank companion.
Bell said the team recently adopted Juan, another fish intended to be a “friend” for Juanita. But Juan died after being sucked into the filter of the fish tank, which is inside the coaches’ office.
Junior catcher/infielder Sahvanna Jaquish jokingly referred to the tank as a mansion and said Juanita, despite the loss of her companion, is “having a blast just swimming around.”
“Rest in peace, Juan,” Jaquish said with a chuckle last Friday. “I give my condolences to Mr. Juan.”
A new look
LSU softball players are known for their glittery makeup and sequin-heavy bows. It’s only fitting Tiger Park received a makeover as well.
The university has added several new amenities to the stadium, most notably renovations to the left-field berm. Now known as Tiger Park Terrace, the berm features a new walkway and steps designed to make the area safer and more accessible.
LSU also installed permanent platforms for cameramen just above both dugouts, along with a new entrance gate in center field. The clubhouse lot will now also be available only to those with permits, and all handicap spaces previously in the area are now located near the front entrance of Tiger Park.
The ramp and gate along the first-base line, formerly a public entryway, will be reserved for those with appropriate credentials.
The Tigers’ path back to the WCWS doesn’t appear to be easy.
LSU’s schedule features nine opponents ranked in the preseason USA Today poll. Southeastern Conference series against No. 1 Florida, No. 5 Alabama, No. 12 Georgia and No. 18 Kentucky comprise 12 of the 19 games against ranked teams.
Starting with their season opener against Ohio State on Friday, the Tigers are also slated to play seven games against three teams that received votes in the preseason poll.