In a lineup loaded with .300 and .400 hitters, it would be easy for the offensive contributions of LSU first baseman Sandra Simmons to get lost in the shuffle.
A closer look at the Tigers’ season statistics, however, show Simmons certainly did her job in helping eighth-ranked LSU compile a hefty .344 average — which ranked third in the 13-team Southeastern Conference this season.
The best part is Simmons, a junior, is swinging a hot bat at just the right time.
When LSU opens postseason play Thursday afternoon in the SEC tournament at Tiger Park, Simmons will be a more confident hitter than she was just a couple of weeks ago.
Thanks to hitting safely in five of LSU’s past six games, a stretch in which she went 9-for-17 with two home runs, a triple and two doubles, Simmons raised her average from .293 to .321 to join six other Tigers in the .300 club.
The difference, she said, has been the extra time she spent in the batting cage with hitting coach Howard Dobson.
“I had a small, little hitch in my swing,” said Simmons, a .298 hitter in three seasons at LSU. “The week before the Missouri series, we fixed some things, with an emphasis on staying back on the ball. Since then, I’ve been feeling more confident in the (batter’s) box.
“It helped with my swing timing,” she added. “I’m letting the ball get to me instead of me jumping out at the pitch.”
Simmons, a native of Fountain Valley, California, is the first to admit it’s all part of the process. She said she’s spent the better part of her LSU career working on her hands as it relates to her swing.
“We’re constantly fixing something,” Simmons said. “I’m not making major adjustments, I’m just trying to sharpen my swing. As you go through games during the season, you sometimes fall back into old (bad) habits.
“So you go back to tee drills and try to feel it again. Then, your brain remembers it.”
Simmons’ average has improved the past two seasons after hitting .270 as a freshman in 2013. She batted .305 last year and topped that with her late six-game surge, which included four multihit games after she had only two in the previous 28.
“I’m not going to say I was in a slump, because I was hitting the ball hard,” she said, noting she also worked on her mindset. “I don’t focus on my batting average; I focus on the other jobs I can do for my team.”
LSU coach Beth Torina is happy to see the total package, especially with the postseason here.
“Sandra is in a great spot, and what a good time for it,” Torina said. “She understood she wasn’t swinging well, so she’s been putting so much time in. She deserves every bit of success she’s having.”
Simmons takes as much pride in her defense as she does in her hitting. Named to the SEC’s all-defensive team announced Tuesday, she has started all 173 games she’s played in at LSU and has just 12 errors.
But lately, she’s been just as confident at the plate.
“I’m definitely more confident right now with my swing,” Simmons said. “I started (the season) pretty well, but right now, this is the most confidence I’ve had.”
And it’s just at the right time.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.