OKLAHOMA CITY — LSU infielders Bianka Bell and Sahvanna Jaquish were named third-team All-Americans by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association on Wednesday.
Both players gave a glimpse of their value to the team beyond statistics when they introduced themselves at a news conference at the Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“Bianka Bell, LSU shortstop,” Bell said, before quickly correcting herself. She moved from shortstop to third base midway through her senior season.
Jaquish, a junior who has caught and played first and third base, described her position as “utility.”
Bell and Jaquish rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in career home runs for the Tigers, but their ability and willingness to play multiple positions have also been key contributions.
Three players from the Tigers opponent in the WCWS opener Thursday night, Michigan, made the first team — first baseman Tera Blanco, second baseman Sierra Romero and outfielder Sierra Lawrence.
Two University of Louisiana-Lafayette players — pitcher Alex Stewart and outfielder Aleah Craighton — made the second team.
Cajuns impressed OU
Speaking of the Ragin’ Cajuns, Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso praised them during the opening news conference. The Sooners, who lost several key players from last year’s team that lost to Alabama in a super regional, beat UL-Lafayette in the Norman super regional last weekend.
“The Ragin’ Cajuns gave us everything and more and made us a better team because of their fight,” Gasso said. “It was a special super regional. It was tough.”
Rain keeps teams off field
Rain disrupted practice Thursday and prevented the teams from working on the field at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Each team took batting practice at an indoor facility and each was at the stadium for media availabilities and other business.
Lots of familiar faces
LSU is very familiar with the other three teams in its bracket. In addition to having played Michigan in the WCWS last season, the Tigers won two games against the Sooners last season in Tiger Park.
OU’s opponent on Thursday, Alabama, came to Tiger Park in the first Southeastern Conference series of this season and LSU won two of three games. The Tigers also eliminated the Crimson Tide from last year’s WCWS.
‘Culture of Louisiana’
Naturally, LSU coach Beth Torina was asked about Juanita the Rallyfish and the NCAA ban on props in the dugout.
Juanita stayed behind at Tiger Park, though Torina wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the players adopting a new fish. Juanita was bought by Bell at an Oklahoma City Walmart before last year’s WCWS, but Bell indicated there wouldn’t be another fishing expedition.
As for the props, “It’s really the culture of Louisiana, just the Mardi Gras props and throws,” Torina said. “Most of the stuff our kids have comes from a parade or something people have thrown us in the dugout or they’ve dumped a thing of beads on us.”
Tigers-Wolverines center stage
ESPN made the LSU-Michigan match-up the marquee game on the first day.
They’ll close out a four-game schedule in the only prime-time telecast Thursday.
“Whether you’re playing at 8 o’clock in the morning or eight o’clock at night, it’s still the world series,” LSU OF Emily Griggs said. “I don’t think we’re focusing on how big a stage it is or who’s watching or how many people are there.
“I think we would play the same game whether there were three people in the stands during a rain delay or whether there were 3,000 people in the stands or 30,000 people in the stands.”
-- Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.