When the Stanford softball team opened its 2014 season against North Carolina State at the Tempe (Ariz.) Sports Complex, 85 people showed up to watch.
It was then-freshman Carley Hoover’s first opening day. She tossed five innings of one-run ball, earning her first collegiate victory.
Fast-forward to LSU’s 2015 opening weekend, and Hoover — now at LSU — will have quite a few more eyes peering down on her when she takes the circle for the first time in Tiger Park.
The Tigers’ opening tournament, dubbed the Tiger Classic, will bring out plenty of emotions from an all-underclassman LSU pitching staff. On one hand, Hoover and true freshman Allie Walljasper will experience the Tiger Park atmosphere for the first time. On the other, sophomores Baylee Corbello and Kelsee Selman will each bring a full year of experience to the circle.
Last season, 1,343 fans attended the home opener, a 5-1 loss to Texas. That’s nearly 16 times the number of people Hoover last saw in the crowd before she delivered a pitch.
“The first day of fall games, coach (Beth Torina) looked out and was annoyed that we had a light crowd that night,” Hoover said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is more fans than we had at any games last year (at Stanford).’ ”
Hoover found herself in Baton Rouge after suffering a cracked rib following Stanford’s opening weekend last season. After receiving a medical redshirt, she decided to transfer to LSU, where her 72-mph fastball immediately made her a contender for the starting rotation.
Walljasper, who won 63 games with a 0.63 ERA while at Sierra High School in Manteca, California, has touched 67 mph on the radar gun. Considering she struck out 895 batters while surrendering only 89 walks during her prep career, it’s safe to say she also brings premier control to the circle.
Neither has pitched with an audience like they’ll witness this weekend. Both will get the call from Torina.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” Walljasper said. “But I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing over these last couple of months.”
Fortunately for Torina, Corbello and Selman have already become accustomed to taking the stage.
The sophomore duo combined for 25 wins and 248.1 innings last year.
Corbello will likely get the call in Friday’s season opener against Memphis. She’s expected to be the ace of the Tigers’ staff, but Selman will look to help ease some pressure.
Every player had to pick a word to stick with for the 2015 campaign. Selman’s was “courageous.”
“I’ve kind of changed my mindset since last year,” Selman said. “Last season, my nerves got in my way.”
The staff will have to get through five games in three days, but the four pitchers’ goals were similar: get LSU’s season started on a positive note.
“It’ll be fun to see all four of us come together,” Selman said. “Instead of worrying about just me, I’m going to worry about ‘we.’ ”