The 2015 LSU softball team’s motto is simple: “The Power of One.”
But based off the performance of last season’s freshman class, the team slogan could very well have been “The Power of Five.”
Five rookies spaced across the diamond — Sahvanna Jaquish at catcher, Bailey Landry in the outfield, Constance Quinn in the infield and both Baylee Corbello and Kelsee Selman in the circle — helped give LSU a spark in a year that saw the Tigers fall just short of a Women’s College World Series appearance.
When the Tigers welcome Memphis to Tiger Park on Friday, though, the former newcomers will have a year under their belts, and they will be hungry.
“It’s a different year, and I have to truly earn my position,” Corbello said. “You can’t afford an off-day ever.”
Their potential was never more apparent than in Game 6 of the 2014 NCAA regional tournament.
Facing elimination against No. 10 Arizona, LSU coach Beth Torina gave her freshman class the ultimate vote of confidence. Corbello trotted to the mound, Jaquish crouched behind the plate, Landry took her spot in right field, and Quinn found herself in the lineup as the designated player.
Corbello proceeded to toss seven innings, allowing only one run and striking out four. Jaquish hit her 16th home run of the season, and Landry and Quinn combined for three hits and an RBI in a 5-1 LSU victory.
But the Tigers fell in the following game, ending their hopes of a national title.
Despite the way the previous season concluded, Torina said she understood the program had a bright future ahead.
“We saw what we were capable of, and we understood how talented we were,” Torina said. “Those kids were so enthusiastic and accomplished so many things during that regional in Arizona.”
But heading into the 2015 season, the current sophomore class could have its hands full as it attempts to fill the holes left by former Tigers seniors.
Jaquish will replace former starter Tammy Wray at third base, Landry will take a permanent spot in the outfield with the departure of Jacee Blades, and Quinn will battle for the starting second base spot with the loss of Allison Falcon.
After leading the team in batting average (.341), home runs (17) and RBIs (55) last season, Jaquish said she understands expectations will be high in 2015, though she isn’t worried about the pressure affecting her play.
“Last year, I came in with the mentality that nobody knew me and I could do whatever I want and get away with a lot of things,” Jaquish said. “Now that they know my strengths and weaknesses, I feel like I just have to perform to the best of my best ability and play the game that I’ve always played.”
Both Corbello and Selman will try to maintain roles in a crowded rotation after the acquisitions of two 6-foot-2 freshmen: Carley Hoover from Stanford and Allie Walljasper from Manteca, California.
Corbello said she isn’t concerned about the battle for innings. She enjoys the competition.
“Pressure is one thing that I feed off of,” Corbello said. “I think all of us do very well under pressure, but I do feel like having options this year (in the rotation) is going to help us.”
Regardless of how the final depth chart takes shape, the 2015 sophomore class has one common character trait: confidence.
Considering LSU will have the No. 1 nonconference strength of schedule for the third consecutive year, confidence will be essential.
“We do have a really young, strong team,” Jaquish said. “Coming into this year, we’re more mature. We’ve been there, done that.”