The No. 3-ranked LSU softball team opens the season by playing five games this weekend and coach Beth Torina plans to give her lineup card a workout.
The Tigers host the five-team Tiger Classic at Tiger Park, playing Ohio State at 5 p.m. Friday followed by a game against North Florida at 7:30 p.m. LSU will play Connecticut and Pacific on Saturday and meet Pacific in a single game Sunday.
“I think you’ll see a different lineup five times this weekend,” Torina said. “I think the core of it will be the same, but the outfield will look different.”
The one position that remains up for grabs is the third outfield spot. Right fielder Bailey Landry and left fielder Emily Griggs, who Torina called “mainstays”, are returning starters and both are getting a look in center field, where A.J. Andrews started every game for the last three seasons before graduating after last season.
Torina said a handful of players are still vying for the third spot and who plays where is still being determined.
“I think you’ll see all of them out there this weekend,” Torina said. “You’ll probably see a different starter out there in three, four, maybe even five games.
“I wish somebody had stepped up and made it more clear, but I do like the depth and that we’re getting good performances out of a lot of people.”
Torina said she’ll use all four of her pitchers — veterans Carley Hoover, Allie Walljasper and Baylee Corbello as well as freshman Sydney Smith — though they could appear in any order.
Ohio State plays Pacific in Friday’s 9:30 a.m. opener and North Florida plays Connecticut at 2:30 p.m., giving Torina and her staff the opportunity to scout their Friday night opponents before determining the best matchups.
“We don’t need any specific person on the mound at any given time,” said Hoover, who was the No. 1 starter at the end of last season when the Tigers reached the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series.
Torina will once again use third baseman Sahvanna Jaquish at catcher when Kellsi Kloss gets a rest, providing an opportunity for others to see time at third, beginning this weekend.
“I think it will be nice to see some of these freshmen and what they do against real competition,” Torina said.
The six freshmen will get their first taste of the Tiger Park atmosphere just as Griggs did last season.
“I don’t think the butterflies ever go away whatever weekend it is,” Griggs said. “That’s what makes the game so great — no matter what, you’re excited for every single pitch and every single inning.”
Torina said she’s not looking for perfection right out of the gate, but last season’s team set a high standard for starting a season, setting a school record with a 25-0 start.
“We’re not trying to duplicate that as much as just trying to play the best softball that we can,” shortstop Bianka Bell said. “Doing what we did last year is not going to help us grow. We’re trying to be better than last year and we’re trying to keep getting better as time goes on.”
Even with five games in three days, Torina wasn’t sure all 23 players would get into the lineup.
“You’ll see some people in some limited roles,” she said. “Some people’s role for this week is just to pinch run. Some people’s role might be just to pinch hit. You will see that if situations arise where that fits in. We’re not going to force those things to happen.
“But if situations arise where we can have people do things that are their role we’re going to make that happen. That’s my plan, but nothing ever goes according to plan, does it?”
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.