The LSU softball team hasn’t always played up to its preseason No. 3 national ranking.
The Tigers have mostly been in the bottom half of the Southeastern Conference, which features more teams ranked in the top 18 (nine) than not (four).
But coach Beth Torina and the players have said since the preseason polls were announced that the only thing that mattered was positioning themselves for a strong postseason run.
At 37-13 and ranked 12th, LSU isn’t positioned as strongly as it was last season when it was the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, but entering the final SEC weekend the Tigers (10-11 in the SEC) are on a roll.
They have won seven consecutive games, including their last five in the conference, going into a series at Arkansas (17-33, 1-17), beginning at 6 p.m. Friday.
“If there’s a time to peak, this is definitely the time,” catcher Kellsi Kloss said before practice Thursday. “Coach always says the last 10 games of our season are important, not just for our momentum but for our RPI as well.”
LSU, which concludes the regular season with a three-game series against No. 10 Washington next weekend at Tiger Park, has the No. 15 RPI.
“I think we’re playing well,” Torina said. “I think we’re building confidence. I think we’re swinging well. I think we’re in a good spot.”
During the win streak, the Tigers have averaged nearly seven runs per game, won twice by the mercy rule and thrown two shutouts.
“We’re finding different ways to win,” right-hander Carley Hoover said. “We’re just doing everything a little bit better.”
Before this winning streak started two weeks ago at Mississippi State, the Tigers had lost five straight SEC games.
“I think our team has shown all year long that they can win a lot of different ways,” Torina said. “They can win by throwing a shutout, they can win by scoring nine runs, they can win by hitting a home run, they can win by a squeeze, something like that. They have a lot of weapons so we just have to use them to the best of our ability.”
This year’s conference schedule was front-loaded with elite teams, which is the reverse of last season when LSU lost five of its last eight regular-season games.
“I think winning in all different ways is something that allows a championship team to be a championship team,” first baseman/outfielder Sandra Simmons said. “That makes us who we are. We don’t rely on just the long ball or base hits or walks.
“It’s really nice knowing that when our long ball isn’t working or we’re not having solid contact there’s another way we can scratch out a run.”
The Tigers are ninth in the SEC entering the series against an Arkansas team that has lost its last eight games, but it’s just a half game behind three teams that are 9-9 — Georgia, Missouri and Ole Miss.
“I feel like we can breathe,” Torina said. “They’re a lot more relaxed. They’re having a good time. They’re enjoying it. They’re staying loose and that’s how this team functions. They’re not a team that plays well when they’re super tight. That’s not in their makeup. They’ve got to have a good time and play loose and when they do that they’re really good at softball.”
Follow Les East on Twitter, @EastAdvocate.