Softball Preview Part 1: Outlook; The Battery

by Clyde Verdin
Softball Preview Part 1: Outlook; The Battery

In the fall, months before the LSU softball team even takes the field against another opponent, head coach Beth Torina and staff decides on the motto or slogan that the team rallies around in the quest for the ultimate goal in reaching the Women’s College World Series. Now, in her fourth season at the helm, Torina is back at one, or in this case, “The Power of One”, as she leads a group of 13 returning letterwinners and seven newcomers, embarking on the 2015 season with this singular focus in mind.

“’The Power of One’ is about a group of women coming together to be one team, with one goal, one singular focus and one destination in mind for the season,” Torina said. “It’s about unity, getting to know your teammates and being selfless. Essentially, it’s about playing for the name on the front of the jersey and not on the back and playing for each other. I think it embodies a lot of what this program stands for.”

In 2014, LSU played statistically the second toughest schedule in the nation, with a mostly unproven and untested core of youth in the circle, and in key spots in the lineup both offensively and defensively. Even with that youth, the Tigers produced one of its best offensive seasons in years, while those young hurlers grew into savvy leaders that helped get the team to the regional final in Tucson before suffering defeat in the end.

Although the season ended with a loss, the toughness and grit the team displayed in the Arizona heat provided Torina with the foundation needed going into this new year.

“I think the end of the year showed us a lot about the type of players we have on this team,” Torina said. “I think we saw that not only are they talented but they know how to fight. They understand what it takes to be in a big game and have a lot more experience playing in that big game. As hard as it was to lose that game, I think it left a really positive taste in their mouths of understanding what lies ahead for this group.”

Included in those 13 returning letterwinners are six total starters from last year’s team, which has provided a lot of spirited competition among the young newcomers who will look to make an impact early at various spots throughout the order and in the field.

“I think we’ve seen a lot of competition in practice this spring, and there are a lot of spots where we’ve had some good battles going on,” Torina said. “I feel like we have all of the pieces of the puzzle, it’s just a matter of putting them together. We know the game’s not played on paper, so we’ve got to go out there and earn all of things we’re capable of earning.

The Battery

One of Florida’s top pitchers in her heyday, Torina knows pitching and has been the beneficiary of quality pitchers in her stable, but 2015 might be her best yet in terms of depth and breadth of scope with losing just SEC All-Tournament selection Ashley Czechner. Instead of three on the roster like last season, Torina will have four aces in the deck, three with collegiate experience and one of the top pitching recruits in the country coming out of high school.

“I think the key to the whole staff is that we have four really different looks and you could see all four used throughout the season,” Torina said. “We’ll have more of a staff mentality than we’ve had before, just because they all are so talented and they all bring something completely different to the table.”

The leading table setter for the Tigers is sophomore Baylee Corbello.

Carrying the load for much of the year in every type of contest, Corbello racked up 35 appearances and 29 starts in her inaugural season, earning 19 wins which was eighth in the Southeastern Conference. Her 24 complete games last year was the most by a freshman in program history, as her 188 strikeouts were the second most in going on to be named third team NFCA All-South Region, second team All-Louisiana and to the SEC All-Freshman team.

“Baylee came off of a great year, and is looking to follow up on that,” Torina said. “She’s made a lot of good offseason adjustments that I think are going to make her even stronger.”

After seeing action sparingly throughout the year, it’s hard to call the only pitcher that threw a no-hitter last year one to watch out for, but Kelsee Selman looks poised to have another solid year after helping keep the team alive during last year’s postseason run.

Selman appeared in 17 games making eight starts as a freshman as well, earning a 2.86 earned run average to go along with her 6-3 record, claiming a no-hitter among her two shutouts on the year. In 49 innings of work, Selman struck out 59 batters and only allowed 29 hits in the process.

“We were able to see what Kelsee Selman was capable of at the end of last year and just build from there,” Torina said. “Everyone knows how talented she is. All we need her to do is go out there and just do what we know she’s capable of and she will be successful.”

The first newcomer to LSU’s circle already has some collegiate experience, but will be looking to extend that past just a handful of games in transfer Carley Hoover. Hoover began her collegiate career at Stanford last year following a Gatorade national high school player of the year prep career, but only saw limited action due to injury in accumulating a 2-0 record with 26 strikeouts and four earned runs allowed in five starts for the Cardinal.

Walljasper, a three-sport athlete at Sierra High School in California, was a prep All-American where she earned 63 wins in the circle, while posting a 0.63 ERA with 895 strikeouts to her credit. The Manteca, California, native issued just 89 walks during her career by earning four league player of the year honors.

Quite possibly a fearsome force in the circle, the two will also look to factor in at the plate as well, with Walljasper hitting .488 and Hoover averaging .500 offensively with a combined 46 home runs.

“Carley brings a very different dynamic to us, as she’s very powerful, throws hard and can compete to be one of the best in the country,” Torina said. “Allie gives us a completely different look, can change speeds well and is a competitor has won at every level she’s played at and we’re expecting nothing less from her here.”

Returning to their duties behind the plate will be junior Kellsi Kloss and sophomore Sahvanna Jaquish, while adding some depth in the addition of Sydney Loupe to the roster.

Kloss earned the lion’s share of time at the dish for LSU, where as a sophomore she started 47 games and played in 50, hitting .278 with 37 hits, including eight doubles and nine home runs with 25 RBI. The Cypress, California, native had a .987 fielding percentage and only committed three errors over the course of the year total.

“Kellsi is the one we call the glue of the team,” Torina said. “She’s the one that keeps us together, focused and upbeat. She does a great job of being a really strong leader in this program.”

A record-setting year led to a host of awards for Jaquish, who earned second team NFCA All-American honors by setting the new program record for home runs in a single-season with 17. The Redlands East standout played in all but two games, leading the team with a .341 batting average and .699 slugging percentage, as she will be a staple in the lineup with her bat and in the field at both catcher and in the infield at times.

“Sahvanna had a great season last year and it’s a testament to her work ethic and versatility to play multiple roles on this team,” Torina said. “She will have a strong presence in the lineup and push for playing time at catcher, designated player and at third base.”

Loupe was a four-year letterwinner at Pope John Paul II on the Northshore, where she amassed a 51-32-1 record during her career. She helped lead the team to two co-district championships, earning all-metro and all-state honors as a senior.