Aliyah Andrews knows exactly what it feels like the night before making a NCAA postseason debut.
Almost a year ago to the day, the LSU outfielder was a nervous freshman preparing for Fairfield in the opening round of the 2017 Baton Rouge regional. After consecutive years of going to the Women’s College World Series, the expectations were all but written on the wall.
As LSU begins its 2018 run against Fordham on Friday, Andrews has a little advice for the new batch of freshmen.
“Last year I was playing not to lose,” Andrews said. “I wanted to make the right plays and was a little timid. This year, I know I need to go out there and be big.”
LSU has two freshman starters this year in right fielder Taryn Antoine and designated player Shelbi Sunseri, but the young duo isn’t alone in their inexperience.
The right side of the infield for Louisiana-Lafayette is taken up by former St. Amant standout Kourtney Gremillion at first base and Casidy Chaumont at second. For Fordham, second baseman Brianna Pinto and shortstop/pitcher Paige Rauch will be introduced to the playoffs, as well.
But these freshmen aren’t just placeholders.
Antoine was named SEC All-Freshman while Sunseri was a significant spark in the lineup in the second half of the season.
Gremillion is hitting .291 for the Cajuns and drove in 14 runs, third most on the team.
Rauch has the potential to be one of the most exciting players in Baton Rouge, entering with a regional-high 16 home runs and a candidate to start in the circle against LSU.
The best part of this weekend for LSU is it doesn’t have to go anywhere.
The Tigers are 32-3 at home, one of the best marks in coach Beth Torina’s seven years. Compared to a 7-8 road mark, it’s clear Tiger Park poses an advantage for LSU.
“We have the best fans in the country,” Torina said. “It’s great to be in front of the Tigers fans and sleep in your own bed and prepare the way you always prepare with your stuff on your field. It changes everything, and our home record speaks for itself.”
The stadium might not be completely purple and gold, though. Houston is only a four-hour drive and, of course, the Cajuns will likely bring a hefty crowd to Baton Rouge.
Welcome (back) to the postseason
They say there’s no better teaching tool than experience.
If there’s one thing the entire field has in Baton Rouge, it’s experience.
The four teams competing for a spot in the super regionals this weekend own a combined 62 NCAA tournament and 12 WCWS appearances.
For host LSU, all non-freshman on the roster have been to the WCWS every year of their career as one of only two programs in the country to reach Oklahoma City three times in a row.
The Cajuns one-upped their host in that regard, reaching the postseason 28 out of the past 29 years, including 20 straight regional appearances.
Fordham may not have the longevity of the other two, but after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference for a sixth year, the Rams know what awaits them.
The odd team out is Houston, which makes its first appearance since 2014.