The 2021 LSU softball performance might not look as pretty as it has in recent years, and that’s because coach Beth Torina has not backed off scheduling the best.
What Torina had in mind is what the No. 17 Tigers face this weekend, traveling to play No. 19 Missouri, the top hitting team in the SEC, for a three-game series in Columbia, Mo. The series starts Friday with a 6:30 p.m. game followed by a 2 p.m. first pitch Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday start.
LSU (22-12, 6-6 in SEC play) is tied for fifth with Ole Miss in the conference standings right behind Missouri (28-7, 6-3). LSU has a chance to make up some ground but will have to contain the home team’s offense, which has cranked out 52 homers, second in the SEC, and 66 doubles, which leads the league. The Missouri team batting average is also a league-best at .350.
“We have our work cut out for us this weekend,” Torina said. “Missouri is really a quality program and has done a lot of good things this year. They’ve got a really strong offense, so we’re going to have to play good defense, make good pitches and swing right with them in order to make it happen.”
While LSU is at .500 in conference games and their stats aren’t, Torina said it’s a function of the No. 2 most difficult schedule in the country. LSU is second-to-last in team batting average (.263) and the team ERA of 2.65 is in the bottom third.
But LSU has played the likes of No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Texas, No. 12 Oklahoma State, No. 14 UL and No. 16 Duke with five starters that haven’t played a full college season.
“No one in the league has played anything close to that,” Torina said. “People at the top are playing a completely different schedule. That has a lot to do with it. It’s tough for us to stay confident within that schedule. It’s been really challenging with five kids that have never played a full season in the starting lineup. We’ve got to keep battling it out, pumping them up, keep making them feel good about themselves. They’ve been through a gauntlet schedule.”
LSU is led by leadoff hitter Aliyah Andrews (.345) and shortstop Taylor Pleasants, who is batting .321 with six homers and 28 RBIs. Freshman Danieca Coffey has raised her average to .311 and has been moved to the No. 2 spot in the order.
All-American Shelbi Sunseri has been struggling with a .228 average but has drawn a team-high 23 walks while being pitched around by the opposition.
“She’s our only All American and earmarked every time,” Torina said. “They want to make sure they get her out; they study her more than anybody else in the lineup and they have the most information on her, so her job is significantly tougher.
“I like what we’ve gotten from Danieca. She’s probably not the one circled, ‘Don’t let her beat you.’ She’s getting an opportunity. I like the at-bats we’re getting from Raeleen Gutierrez (.286). She’s been a great hitter for us last few weeks.”
Offensively, Missouri is led by shortstop Jenna Laird with a .439 average. Catcher Hatti Moore leads Mizzou with 13 homers and has knocked in 32 runs. Third baseman Kimberly Wert has 11 homers and 35 RBIs.
Pitcher Jordan Weber (7-2, 3.28 ERA) is the staff ace who often starts two games in an SEC series. She has 14 starts with 53 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings. Megan Schumacher is 8-1 with a 2.01 ERA.