The LSU softball team has stormed to a 36-9 record and is positioned near the top of the Southeastern Conference, percentage points from first, thanks to a dominating offense which leads the league in several statistical categories.
One of the Tigers’ under-the-radar assets has been the defense, ranked fifth in the league, and led by shortstop Amber Serrett, who is recognized throughout the team and by the coaching staff as the “brains” of the defense.
Serrett doesn’t mind the tag; in fact, she embraces it.
“It’s definitely my favorite part of the game,” said Serrett, a senior from Spring, Texas. “It’s like a chess match, thinking what the other team is going to do in the situation and trying to be one step ahead of them.”
In a hard-fought series win against Kentucky last weekend, Serrett sparked an LSU defense that went errorless in winning the final two games of the series. The Wildcats managed only five runs and 14 hits in three games.
Serrett is ranked fifth among SEC starting shortstops with a .965 fielding percentage, but that only tells part of the story. Her instincts and understanding of positioning is one of the invisible stats she’s contributed in four years of starting at the game’s toughest position.
“She’s the brains of the operation out there,” LSU coach Beth Torina said. “She definitely puts everybody in the right spot and makes us feel confident.
“Somebody told me the other day we have the most veteran infield in the country as far as games played, and she’s the leader of that, the one who stands out when you think about that.”
Serrett was Scholar Athlete of the Year in Montgomery County coming out of high school and a member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll as a junior. It’s her intellect and feel for the game that convinced Torina to insert her at as a freshman and move star shortstop Bianka Bell to third base in 2016.
Since her freshman year Serrett has 227 starts at shortstop, including all 45 games in this season. When third baseman Amanda Sanchez transferred to LSU from Missouri, she knew her new teammate by reputation.
“I’ve always respected Amber and her game,” Sanches said. “I’ve gotten the chance to play against her. She’s been a staple at shortstop, a leader on and off the field. She’s a great person, teammate and ballplayer. Having her on the left side with me has made me more comfortable because she’s had my back. We’ve been working well together. It’s been a blessing to be her teammate.”
Serrett is rebounding from an off year as a junior on offense. She batted .304 as a freshman and .263 the following season. Last year, her average fell to .229. This season she’s been around the .300 mark most of the year but tailed off recently to .269, with a career-high six home runs.
The Blast Motion sensor technology LSU has employed has boosted her power numbers as well as those of her teammates.
“I feel I have more power,” Serrett said. “I’m happy we transitioned to the numbers part of the game, trying to see the little things. We were always wondering what that one thing was that could get us a step ahead of everybody else.”
Torina said with her defensive focus, sometimes it’s a battle to get Serrett as confident in her batting.
“She’s a great hitter; I try to remind her of that all the time,” Torina said. “There were points in her career where she (thought of herself as) a defensive shortstop. She’s a great hitter. She always has been and it’s nice to see her live up to that potential.”