LSU softball having its hottest hitter leading off the game is a bonus, and it's especially nice when she’s a senior leading a young team.
That’s where the No. 13 Tigers' center fielder Aliyah Andrews comes in, leading LSU into this weekend’s key three-game series against No. 7 Texas. The teams play at 7 p.m. Friday in Tiger Park with a doubleheader at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Andrews is batting .583 in her past six games with eight runs scored, two doubles, a homer and six stolen bases. Her No. 1 job, on-base percentage, is .600 in that span. Her play in center field has been ESPN-highlight worthy, and her work ethic is vital to helping to mature a young team.
“She had an awesome weekend last weekend,” LSU senior pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch said. “She does what it takes to be good. She’s a leader and one of our strongest players. As a pitcher you want her out there in center field. If a ball goes out there, you know she’s going to catch it. She means a lot to this team.”
LSU (11-5) started the season ranked No. 5 but always was deceptively young. Several key sophomores played only 24 games in last year’s COVID-19 pandemic-shortened season, robbing them of the experience they’d normally have as second-year players.
Andrews is showing the younger players never to settle and always work to improve. As the consummate leadoff hitter, she sought to improve her power numbers and has done so. She’s got four doubles and her first career homer this season, which may not sound like a lot but shows a diversified game for a slap hitter.
“When I hit, I’ll work on everything, my bunts, all my tools,” Andrews said. “I’ve tried to put more emphasis in my power game. Nothing crazy, just trying to get it through in RBI situations. I’m not going to be the one who hits it over the fence, just get on base and let them drive me in.”
Andrews led off Tuesday’s victory against Southern Miss with her first career home run, an inside-the-park effort, using her speed to circle the bases easily. The left-handed hitting Andrews hit a line drive down the left-field line rather than bunting or slapping it into the ground and using her speed to reach first base.
“She works with (volunteer assistant) Sandra Simmons; they spend a lot of time on it” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “It’s fundamental more than mental. It’s putting your bat in a different spot and attacking pitches differently. The two of them have put in countless hours trying to diversify her game. You’re seeing the product of that. We’re seeing more of these power moments for her.”
LSU will need Andrews offense, defense and leadership this weekend against the Longhorns (9-0), who had their first 16 games canceled or postponed. Right fielder Jordyn Whitaker leads Texas with a .474 average, second baseman Janae Jefferson is hit .464 and center fielder Shannon Rhodes .455. Rhodes has team bests of five homers and 15 RBIs.
“They’re a team, unlike ours, that has a lot of experience,” Torina said. “They have some kids that have played in some big situations. Their youth is on the mound. We’re going to get a well-prepared, well-coached program. We’ll have to bring our best game.”