May 10, 2016
BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU softball team opens play at the 2016 SEC Softball Tournament Wednesday afternoon, taking on the Texas A&M Aggies at 1:30 p.m. at Nusz Park in Starkville on the SEC Network.
Every game of the tournament will be televised, with the first two days airing on the SEC Network, with the semifinals of the tournament on ESPNU and the championship game Saturday televised on ESPN. Live streams of each game will be available through SEC Network+ and WatchESPN for the duration of the tournament.
Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge will have all of the radio coverage of LSU’s run in the event, with Patrick Wright calling all of the action, as an audio stream will be available for Geaux Zone subscribers at LSUsports.net.
After a 56-game schedule that featured a gauntlet of ranked and tough opponents, the Tigers open the postseason with a 42-14 overall record as a squad, as the team has won 12 of its last 13 games overall looking to take their momentum into the league’s showcase event.
“I feel like we have the type of team that is built to win championships, and has the ability to run through tournaments,” head coach Beth Torina said. “Knowing we have a deep pitching staff, a lot of versatility on the bench and a lot of weapons, we think we have a team set up to succeed in a situation like this.”
LSU ended conference play two weeks ago with its second-consecutive sweep of a league opponent to finish with a 13-11 overall mark. The wins not only secured another above-.500 winning percentage in the SEC for the 19th time, but locked LSU into the seventh seed, setting up a rematch against the Aggies who are the No. 10 seed in the 12-team tournament.
“Our players seem to have a good mentality when they want to go out and beat someone,” Torina said. “When they want another shot at someone, I think there is something to be said for that kind of mentality and one that I’m glad they have.”
Before LSU finds its way to Starkville over the course of the next day, the team had one final regular season test in the form of hosting the Pac-12’s Washington Huskies last weekend, taking two of three games in the high-powered series, shutting out the Huskies in the opener before rallying back twice from deficits to claim the finale in nine innings Sunday.
The wins were a bit of an RPI boost for the squad, as LSU has 17 wins over teams in the top 50 of the metric, with 11 of those wins over teams in the top 25 of the RPI. The pair of victories also upped the team’s wins over ranked opponents to nine in the process.
Leading LSU’s charge offensively is two-time first team All-SEC selection Bianka Bell, who earned a spot on the postseason list for the second consecutive year. Within LSU’s .327 batting average, Bell leads the group hitting .395 on the season and .373 against SEC competition. The Tampa, Florida, native is tied for the team lead in hits, while second in doubles, home runs and RBIs, earning 44 walks over the course of the season.
Bell isn’t alone in the power categories, backed by Sandra Simmons and her breakout senior campaign where she led the team in batting average in the SEC and is second overall with a .368 mark. Sahvanna Jaquish has 65 RBIs and is 12 shy of tying her school-record number from a year ago, as she has 20 multi-RBI games on the year which is two back of the record she set last year for the most for an LSU player in a single year.
In the circle, LSU is paced by second team All-SEC performer Carley Hoover who comes into the contest with a 15-7 overall record and a team-leading 176 strikeouts in 141.1 innings of work. Hoover has the second lowest opponent batting average on the team, with three shutouts and 15 complete games.
After a stellar effort over the weekend, where she helped secure both of the victories, freshman Sydney Smith was named the SEC’s Pitcher of the Week for the first time, holding Washington to a single run on 11 hits in 13.2 innings of work. She’s won her last five decisions and has the lowest ERA in the nation at 0.59 with a 12-2 record.
While making a name for herself in the circle, sophomore Allie Walljasper once again used her bat to show her offensive power, cranking the solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to claim the Washington series, the second time this season she’s used her bat to change the outcome of an LSU game. She has a 9-5 record in the circle as well with three shutouts, walking just 15 batters all season.
LSU and Texas A&M squared off in College Station back in March, as the Aggies took two out of three from LSU in the series, where offense stole the show for a pair of solid pitching teams for three days. The Tigers will be looking to quiet the Aggie bats this time around, giving up six and nine runs in their losses.
The Tigers have won six of the last 10 meetings against Texas A&M, as LSU is 37-19 all-time in SEC tournament games. The winner of the contest advances to Thursday to take on the second-seeded Kentucky Wildcats at 1:30 p.m. in Starkville.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @BethTorina on Twitter and @lsusb on Instagram.