The LSU softball team isn’t just outscoring its opponents this season. The Tigers are beating teams into submission at a rate the program has never seen under coach Beth Torina.
On its way to a 21-0 record, LSU has outscored the opposition 165-27 this season, a margin larger than four of the country’s top five programs. No. 1 Florida is the only team that has scored more and allowed fewer.
Not only do the Tigers have a new all-time home runs leader in junior shortstop Bianka Bell with 33, but her seven homers this season don’t even lead the team. That honor goes to sophomore Sahvanna Jaquish, who has nine.
As a team, LSU has 24 home runs. LSU had 13 home runs in the entire 2012 season.
And all of that has come before the start of Southeastern Conference play, which opens Friday against visiting Arkansas. Up first is a 6 p.m. matchup Tuesday against Northwestern State at Tiger Park.
“There’s no question our kids are stronger, better, faster — all of those things,” Torina said. “Our coaches are doing such a great job of helping them, and they’re truly trusting what their coaches are asking them to do. It’s amazing to see the offense at the spot where they are.”
Hitting coach Howard Dobson said this year’s team is one of the best he has ever seen in the sheer diversity and depth of the lineup. The Tigers have seven starters hitting at least .350. That includes senior center fielder A.J. Andrews, who is hitting .531. This weekend alone, she hit .909 and had 13 RBIs in five games, more than enough to be named SEC Player of the Week.
With so many strong hitters, LSU creates a “pick your poison” situation for the opposition.
“You have so much diversity in the lineup, and they can do so many different things,” Dobson said. “If you shift around on Bianka because you’re scared of what she’s going to hit, then A.J. steals a bag on you. If you try to pitch around Bianka, then Sahvanna is on deck. Pitch around Sahvanna, and Kellsi Kloss is waiting on you.”
But the most devastating part of LSU’s offense is the way the Tigers jump on teams early and never let up. More than a quarter of the team’s runs this season have come in the first inning, setting up 10 wins called by the mercy rule. The Tigers had seven at this point last year and only three in 2013.
The early momentum acts as a snowball effect for the Tigers, whose collective confidence grows with each game.
“I know that so-and-so has a lot of confidence in me, and I have a lot of confidence in every single person in the lineup,” Andrews said. “When you don’t feel the pressure of having to get it done personally, it just allows you to just play. And once you just play, everybody does well and the momentum builds and everybody continues to do great.”