OKLAHOMA CITY — The LSU softball team’s performance this season demanded a continual look to the past.
When was the last time the Tigers did this? When was the last time they did that? Oh, they’ve never done it before.
But when this history-making season ended two wins short of the Women’s College World Series championship series Sunday afternoon, it was time to start looking forward.
And that view was pretty impressive as well.
Coach Beth Torina noted the significance of her companions on the dais in the postgame news conference, chosen by the reporters covering the game as spokespersons as much for the march through the NCAA tournament and the season as a whole as for the 6-3 loss to Michigan that ended it all.
Torina was seated next to sophomore outfielder Bailey Landry and freshman pitcher Carley Hoover — fitting representatives of why LSU was at the WCWS and why it’s perfectly reasonable to think it could be back there in 12 months.
The Tigers won eight games in the NCAA tournament, and Hoover had a win or a save in seven of them. Landry had a hit in all 11 of the team’s games in the tournament, which ended with her emerging with the top batting average on the most prolific hitting team in school history.
“We had a ton of underclassmen in the game today and a ton of underclassmen that were contributors all season long,” Torina said. “Having the core of your team playing in a game like this, being in this setting and being in this scenario, I think is huge going down the road.”
Whenever Hoover wasn’t in circle, fellow freshman Allie Walljasper usually was, and she came through with wins in elimination games in the Baton Rouge regional and the WCWS to keep the season going.
Two other freshmen — left fielder Emily Griggs and second baseman Sydney Bourg — were fixtures in the starting lineup for the stretch run.
The heart of the order featured juniors Bianka Bell, Kellsi Kloss and Sandra Simmons, as well as sophomores Sahvanna Jaquish and Constance Quinn.
The only senior among the everyday players was A.J. Andrews, a four-year fixture at the top of the order and in center field who won’t be easily replaced. Hoover noted that the other two seniors — Dylan Supak and Kailey McCasland — will be missed as well.
“The senior leadership is something that is clearly irreplaceable,” Hoover said. “Those are some big shoes to fill so we’ll see who does that, but I’m really excited with the talent we have on the field and everything else — depth in the circle, depth in defense, depth on offense.”
Torina called this year’s team “a special group,” noting its chemistry and leadership. With most of the key parts returning, next year’s group could be special as well.
Of course, as Torina noted, there are no guarantees. No team picks up where its predecessor left off.
The Tigers can’t look ahead to next season and merely contemplate what it will take to win four more games after reaching the WCWS semifinals.
There’s quite a bit of offseason work, fall practice, preseason work and another ambitious schedule featuring the Southeastern Conference gauntlet to deal with before Oklahoma City ever pops up on the radar again.
But the Tigers will be better off for having played four games in the WCWS, having learned what it takes to win twice under the most challenging of circumstances even while experiencing what it’s like to lose twice under the same.
“I think I learned a lot being here,” Hoover said.
She wasn’t the only one.
“I think this team will learn and this team will rebound,” Torina said. “They definitely have all the tools, talent, ability in order to put them back in this spot and continue to achieve even more than this.”
Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.