For four years, nearly every time LSU softball coach Beth Torina filled out a lineup card, she didn’t even have to think about where to start.
The lineup always began with A.J. Andrews leading off and playing center field.
But Torina no longer has that luxury, so filling out her lineup card has required a little more thought.
For instance that top spot has included four different names — Emily Griggs, Constance Quinn, Bailey Landry and Bianka Bell. In fact, Quinn, Landry and Bell have each been in that spot during the last five games.
So when Torina fills out her lineup card for this weekend’s series at No. 9 Georgia, which begins at 5 p.m. Friday, she has multiple options.
Bell, who’s usually the No. 3 hitter and sometimes the cleanup hitter, won’t be leading off. Torina put her in that spot for the last game of the series against Florida last weekend because the Gators had pitched around her during the first two games.
Griggs batted leadoff six times early in the season, but has been entrenched in the No. 2 spot since.
“I think Bailey and Connie are our best options (to lead off),” Torina said.
Torina said last year’s lineup was “a little more routine” than this year’s, which has featured 29 orders in 34 games.
“We’re always trying to put people in a spot where they can be successful with who’s hot,” Torina said. “They go through ups and downs and peaks and valleys throughout the entire season. If we do a good job of putting the people who are swinging well back to back we’re going to score a lot more runs.”
Scoring more runs has been the emphasis all week, coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the top-ranked Gators. The Tigers were shut out in the first two games and their only runs in the series were single unearned runs scored in the final two innings.
The lack of scoring had more to do with facing the top pitching staff in the country and a failure to hit with runners on base than to do with the batting order.
Bell, Sahvanna Jaquish and Kellsi Kloss — the top three home-run hitters in school history — will continue to handle the middle of the order. Quinn or Landry, whoever doesn’t bat leadoff, figures to hit in the bottom half of the order along with Amber Serrett, Elyse Thornhill and Sandra Simmons, who had the best series against Florida, going 4 for 10.
In addition to leadoff, Landry also has batted second, third, fifth and sixth. She even batted ninth in the game in which Bell led off.
“Different spots require different jobs and different mentalities,” Landry said.
“I think we’re learning that we don’t have to rely on just one person, that one through nine and the people on the bench can do it for us,” Simmons said. “We just have to have the mentality that if I’m not getting it done the person behind me is getting it done and so forth until everything clicks.”
Speaking of lineup juggling, Torina said she’s looking to get freshman right-hander Sydney Smith (7-1, 0.59) more involved on the weekend, behind Carley Hoover (10-3, 2.43) and Allie Walljasper (4-4, 1.81). Smith has made two appearances in SEC play and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 3.1 innings, though she did allow five unearned runs in taking the loss in a 10-3 defeat against Alabama on March 12.
No. 8 LSU, which lost two out of three at Texas A&M two weekends ago, has lost five of its last six conference games, including its last four. The Tigers (26-8, 3-6) are 2½ games behind fifth-place Georgia (30-5, 4-2).
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.