Reeling from a sweep at the hands of then-No. 1 Florida two weekends ago, the LSU softball team was thankful for the absence of a midweek game before it traveled to face No. 10 Georgia.
This week, the Tigers couldn’t be any happier to play one.
After picking up a much-needed series win last weekend, No. 8 LSU aims to maintain the momentum when it hosts Southern Miss for a midweek contest at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Tiger Park.
“We don’t look overlook anybody, but it’s nice to get out of conference play for one game a week just to kind of get reset and get a little bit of confidence back,” senior catcher Kellsi Kloss said Tuesday. “(But) last week was the perfect time to not have a midweek and just focus on four really good practice days.”
The Tigers (28-9) spent that time emphasizing individual skills and mental toughness, the latter of which manifested itself in the waning moments of Friday’s 5-4 win against the Bulldogs.
Plagued again by the lack of timely hitting that doomed it against Florida, LSU entered the seventh inning with a 4-1 deficit. But the Tigers rallied for four runs on four hits and an error, a reversal hitting coach Howard Dobson summed up by saying “things started falling our way.”
LSU coach Beth Torina called the comeback a potential turning point for a team that limped to a 3-6 start in Southeastern Conference play.
“We needed it. There’s no question we needed that,” she said. “It was exciting, uplifting, and it gave them some hope.”
That positive energy carried over into Game 2, a 5-1 win the Tigers clinched with a three-run fifth inning. Though a 3-1 loss in the finale dashed hopes of a sweep, they secured their first series win at Georgia in 15 years, a feat Torina said her team should “celebrate and enjoy.”
“I think it was a great team series win,” senior first baseman Sandra Simmons said. “We really came together and found a way to get those runs across.”
Now LSU’s task is to keep to the momentum rolling into its weekend series against No. 16 Kentucky. The Tigers have the opportunity to do so against the Golden Eagles (18-20), a team Dobson described as scrappy despite a dearth of power and speed numbers.
Only two everyday starters hit above .300, leaving Southern Miss with a team batting average of .274 along with just 12 stolen bases. Right-hander Samantha Robles (10-7, 3.48 ERA) has handled nearly half of the work for the Golden Eagles pitching staff.
Southern Miss is 1-7 against Top-25 teams but proved it could compete with SEC teams when it split a doubleheader against Ole Miss on Feb. 24.
Wednesday’s game will mark the first time Dobson faces his former team since taking over as LSU’s hitting coach in 2012. He guided the Golden Eagles to a 93-124-2 record during his four-year stint as head coach from 2008-2011.
“It’s nice playing those people, seeing those colors again,” Dobson said. “But you still want to take care of business against the people you just left.”
The Tigers want to take care of business for a different reason.
“I think we’re still trying to climb out of this hole a little bit,” Torina said. “We’re on the way out of it. I feel good about the spot we’re in and better than I have about where we are fundamentally.”