|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY BASEBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 6, 2017
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started.
I would like to take the time to welcome you to our annual Softball Media Day as we get prepared for the season opener this week. I'll introduce head coach Beth Torina. She'll make a couple statements, talk a little bit about the season, things upcoming, then we'll take questions.
I'd like to introduce head coach Beth Torina.
COACH TORINA: Thank you very much for being here. We appreciate the support you give us all year long, just growing our sport, helping our LSU softball brand. We really appreciate you guys being here and supporting us today.
2016 was a season we were really proud of. Finished third. Back-to-back seasons at the College World Series for the first time in program history. LSU softball won its thousandth game. We played the sixth toughest strength of schedule in the country. It is the fifth time in five years we have been in the top seven.
We finished the regular season winning 12 of our last 13 games. We were in the SEC tournament final. We played in a wonderful atmosphere in James Madison, and were able to take it to the wire and come away with a victory there.
We had two All-Americans last year, Bianka Bell, Sahvanna Jaquish. Bianka Bell, a lot of career records as she finishes her career. I'm sure they're ready to be broken this year by our next. Finishes a very decorated career. She and the four other seniors will definitely be missed by this year's group, as three of those guys played in virtually every game of their entire career.
But they will be replaced in 2017, or attempted to be replaced, by seven very dynamic freshmen, one of the best recruiting classes we've had at my time here at LSU. We're excited with them. I will get to them in just a minute.
We also had a solid pitching staff last year that ranked in the top of the nation, including Sydney Smith, who had the lowest ERA for a freshman in the country, she was seventh in the country in ERA.
We had a 97% season ticket renewal. We played in front of over 75,000 fans at Tiger Park. It was a record setting season, a season we can really be proud of 2016.
2017, we all have high hopes. Of course our team talks about returning to the College World Series, this time making it a couple games further. That's talked about very often at our practices and on a daily basis.
We return 15 players from 2016's roster and, like I said before, we add seven very dynamic freshmen to this group. We play nine nationally televised games and another 23 will be on the SEC Network at home. Television has truly changed our game and is just really making our sport so much better, just continuing to grow our sport. It's also changed the workload of the coaching staff a little bit. It's something we enjoy. It brings us a totally different dynamic for us to prepare for the season and for our opponents.
We're scheduled to play 16 NCAA region teams from last year. We have some really great events happening at Tiger Park. We'll have our Teal Game April 1st, and some other fun events scheduled.
I think our team this year will be a little bit different than how we have been in the past. We'll still have a pretty well-rounded offense. We have our solid power lineup, Sahvanna Jaquish, we are going to add Sydney Springfield and Amanda Doyle to that group.
I think this is one of the fastest teams we've had in my time here, adding some super speed to our lineup, including already having Griggs and Landry in the lineup, we add a bunch more speed in this freshmen class. I think you'll see us trying to create things offensively, trying to have a little bit different look. But hopefully you'll still get the same successful output.
We're combining that with solid defense. Of course, we return a really solid pitching staff, Carley Hoover, Allie Walljasper, Sydney Smith. Those guys will keep us in every ballgame. We add to that a freshman, Maribeth Gorsuch from Dallas, Texas, who was highly recruited, and I expect to do a great job for us, as well.
I think this year's team has a lot to offer. I think they're going to be exciting, a lot of fun. There's a ton of youth. We will have some learning to do early in the season, but I hope as we get into SEC play and deep into the season, this team is ready to compete at the highest level.
That's all I have, if you have questions for me.
Q. As you return this team, you have been in the College World Series, people can talk about doing what it takes to win, but how important is it that you have so many girls on this team that have been there and know what it takes?
COACH TORINA: I think it's really important. We've talked a lot about that with our upperclassmen, trying to teach our freshmen and our young players our identity, who we are.
It's tough to understand actually the effort and the grind that it takes to go to the College World Series, what it actually encompasses. But we are so fortunate. We have a strong group of leaders, a strong group of upperclassmen. We have a strong junior class that doesn't know anything other than finishing their season at the College World Series, which is so cool.
I think these guys understand what it takes, what it takes to get there. They know it's a lot of work. A couple breaks have to go your way, a little bit of luck. But I think they understand what it takes to get there, and hopefully they understand what it takes to win a few more games.
Q. Beth, you talked about this before, but with your team being as young as it is, seven freshmen, do you kind of lean on a veteran pitching staff in the beginning of the season as you get in your groove offensively?
COACH TORINA: Yeah, without question. I think our pitching staff is going to have to carry a lot of the load early for us. I think they're set up to do that, though. They're so talented.
Like I said, we'll be hitting on all cylinders as we get into SEC play, and deeper into the season. Our pitching staff is so talented, they should keep us in every game the entire way.
Our freshmen are really talented. I expect to see them all in some capacity here this first weekend. They're going to have a lot to learn. And we'll count on Sahvanna, Bailey, Emily, those guys, Constance, to keep teaching them, molding them, growing them, so they're ready to go when it really counts.
Q. What do you think last year's team learned from the fact that they don't start the year in Oklahoma City and they have to grind through it? Playing an SEC team every weekend is like playing a College World Series team every time.
COACH TORINA: The stretch last season where we played virtually 15 games against the top 12 in the country, it was a grind for them mentally.
I think we've really tried to put a big emphasis on our mental training this year, tried to really kind of overdo that or put a lot of weight and time, even practice time, put into having a really tough mentality, having them understand how they have to be able to fail, bounce back, just go through adversity.
I think that's a big reason why we were so successful at the end of the year. They truly understood how to go through adversity, so there was no situation that was too big for us.
Q. You also mentioned you think there could be more slappers in the lineup this year. Has that kind of played out in early scrimmages and practice so far?
COACH TORINA: I think they're all really talented. I think there's a lot of things that we'll get worked out here in the first month of the season. I think a lot of people are going to get opportunities. It will be what they earn from that.
That's going to be my message to the team honestly this week, you're going to get opportunities and you need to make the most of them. I don't think it would be out of the question to see four or five at some point. They're all capable. I don't know that we start that way here in game one. They're all talented. I wouldn't be completely shocked if that happened.
Q. With so many young players on this team, how important is tournament play going to be early in the year to define some of those roles before conference play rolls around?
COACH TORINA: We definitely need that time. We need February. We play a ton of games in February. We need them to really get ready.
Like I said, I think you're going to see a lot of faces this first opening weekend. There are going to be a lot of girls that get opportunities. They are not just us giving opportunities, they're earned. We have a really deep team., a lot of players that deserve some playing time, some opportunities. I think you're going to see a lot of faces, you're going to get to know them well.
It may be something where we are able to match up people based on pitching throughout the season. We have a lot of options and a lot of depth. I think they're really talented. I'm excited to see what they're going to do.
Q. Your coaching staff, so dynamic. They always have a new message each year for the players. Can you share it for 2017?
COACH TORINA: Well, our message, of course, on all of our posters and everything we're doing is: All Gold. A lot of championships have been won at LSU wearing gold. We want to be all gold this year. A lot of the stuff you'll see is about the color gold.
Our internal message is about 'made'. It is really just the concept that no one is born into the College World Series, it's something we have to make ourselves into every year. What type of a team are they going to make themselves into this year is our challenge to them. Who will they made to be, especially with a new dynamic, kind of big turnover, losing five, bringing in seven, how will this team really turn into their own personality and be their own 2017 LSU Tigers.
Q. Talk a little bit about the SEC schedule, about the teams in the SEC, what you expect from a conference that produces multiple College World Series teams each year.
COACH TORINA: 1 to 13, we're just so strong in the SEC. Honestly every time we take the field, it's taking the field against a super regional caliber opponent. I think that's part of why we've had some success in the super regionals, that and having a deep pitching staff, too.
Being prepared to play these three-game series day in, day out, playing against the best of the best is something that has paid off, paid dividends for us in the post-season.
We are excited about the SEC slate. I know we open up with the College World Series runner-up at Auburn. I am sure that will be a tough place to play. Going to Alabama is always a tough place to play.
Then we host some great ones here at Tiger Park, as well. It will be a tough season, but it's always a tough season in the SEC.
Q. You talked about how you got a little bit younger team, may be fooling around with the lineup early. How important is a player like Sahvanna Jaquish, who can play multiple positions for you early on?
COACH TORINA: Yeah, there's no words for Sahvanna, what she does for this team and this program. She's so talented. It feels like you could stand her at any position on the field, and she would look like the best one out there at every position, she is so athletic. So it's fun.
I've moved her around every single year. This year you will see her more behind the plate than she has been in the past. And third basis is where she's worked. I've tried to rein her in, not make her practice at four or five different spots.
But she is just a great leader for us. When she's on the field, we're better, not just because she's a great player, but because of what she says to us, how she leads us, how she speaks, what she does for us. She's very calming, very comforting, she gives us confidence. She does so much for us.
I think that entire group, her, Bailey Landry, Constance Quinn, Layna Savoie, those guys are just really solid as human beings, really solid for us. Take softball out of us, they're great leaders for us and do a great job for us.
Q. You were talking about the seven freshmen, all of them are going to play. How does that motivate the veterans to get better so they don't lose their spot?
COACH TORINA: A lot of competition early here. We've had some people that have done some things to help themselves. Shemiah Sanchez moved from second to third base. I think you'll see a lot of her there. She's doing a great job for us at third base.
I think they've seen some of that coming and have found ways to challenge themselves and continue competing.
Tiger Park is rarely empty nowadays. They're out there on their own working, putting in time, trying to push themselves to be the best they can. There is a ton of competition. It's good for us.
If we can handle our own team out there competing, I think we'll be able to handle just about anybody in the country.
Q. You mentioned 97% season ticket renewal. What have the back-to-back World Series in three out of five years, people wanting to be part of Tiger Park?
COACH TORINA: I think a lot of people like what we are doing. They like us competing, competing at the highest level. They like so many of the traditions that were put in place by Coach Gerard and those that came before me of season ticket delivery, meet-and-greet, a lot of things we do as part of this program. We really make people feel like it's a family. It's a family atmosphere at Tiger Park. I think none of that has changed.
I think our success on the field is fun, it's fun to watch. I think a lot of the traditions that have been in place here for a long time here at LSU still continue to be a lot of the fan favorites.
Q. I thought there was a pretty big jump from Hoover between year one and year two. What do you expect out of her?
COACH TORINA: I can tell you Carley is in the best shape I've ever seen her in. She's put in so much time. She's worked really hard. She's had a great off-season. She's done so much to make herself ready for this year. She's poised to have her best year yet. I think she does so many great things for us, too.
We talked a lot about Sahvanna and Bailey. But that class, the junior class, Allie and Carley, they're great for us, great competitors for us. I think they just do a great job. Carley has put in a ton of time. She deserves a great season, honestly, for how hard she's worked.
Then both Allie and Sydney are just calm, cool, collected every time they take the mound. They just go out and compete. They're not going to be huge fist pumpers, though we did get to see the Allie Walljasper fist pump at the end of the James Madison regional, one of my favorite moments.
They just go out and they do their job. Throw a lot of ground balls, keep people off balance. You can't ask for a whole lot more from those guys. They do such a great job. I feel very confident they will keep us in every ballgame all year long, 56 times.
Q. How cool is it for you as a coach to have a player who is in position to break some school records like Sahvanna is?
COACH TORINA: Since we've gotten here with Howard and Lindsay taking over this offense, I think we've been in a position to break offensive records from day one. I think they've done such a great job.
They're so talented. They understand the game. They're the best of the best. So I think they've put us in that spot year in, year out.
This year we add Melissa Brown, our new volunteer coach from Tennessee, who worked a lot with our slappers. She's has really worked to grow them, and been able to spend a lot of time with them. We're excited about the addition of that.
I feel like those guys have put us in that spot every year. We've been there before. I think Sahvanna has been breaking records since the day she walked on campus, too. She has just done it the entire way. Sometimes I don't even know she has broken a record, she has broken so many.
I think I have no doubt she will continue to write her name all over the history book, and I will enjoy watching every bit of it.
Q. Is there a position on the field right now you feel is still up for battle at this point in the season, except for the returners at the position?
COACH TORINA: I think there's a lot of positions that are still being competed for. I think there's a lot of the depth at some positions.
Amber Serrett is so solid at shortstop. That's a no-brainer. I think you'll see her out there on day one, day 56, day 131. She's special. She's just our absolute rock solid leader, too. You know what you're getting from her every single day. She does a great job for us.
Then I think there's some spots in the lineup that are pretty solid at this point. Griggs and Landry, Sahvanna, all those guys have done a great job, have a ton of experience. So I think there's some there.
But I think there's a lot of competition in the corners, a lot of competition in left field. A lot of these freshmen are doing some big things. Amanda Doyle and Sydney Springfield are back and forth every day, it feels like, at first base. They are doing a great job. They both are really talented. They swing for a ton of power, both of them. It's fun watching them compete, too. They both came in very highly recruited. Amanda Doyle just made the junior national team. We're really proud of that for her. She's a special, special player. I think you're going to see a lot of that name around this program for four years.
There's a ton of competition over there, as well. Like I said, you're going to see a lot of different looks from us early. I think that's fun.
The outfielders, Claire Weinberger, Aliyah Andrews, those guys fly. Nicky Dawson is as fast as any kid we've ever had in the program. She'll play some second base. There are a ton of freshmen making this big push over the field. You couple that with our solid returners, it's a great problem for a coach to have.
Q. This past summer obviously the flooding hit Baton Rouge. Your team was out there helping in the cleanup efforts. Does that give your team more motivation for this year, seeing what happened, seeing what the people in this city went through? Does that give more emphasis on the season?
COACH TORINA: Yeah, that was a really proud moment for me as a coach. Just to be dealt with such a terrible situation and see our team's response. I think our staff helped in 14 or 15 houses. We had players, freshmen, that had never attended a practice for LSU softball, but they were out in this community, some from California, all over the place.
But they're out in this community giving back to people that they've never met, that they don't know anything about.
That was a really proud moment for me as a coach. Seeing that and going through that, watching these people. I mean, I've personally never experienced something like taking someone's belongings and putting them out to the road. I think that's changed me for life. I'm sure it's changed them.
I know they always want to play for this community. They love their fans. They love the Tiger fans. It's a big motivator for them on a daily basis. I think this year just adds onto that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH TORINA: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports