The LSU softball team entered the 2015 season with a respectable No. 19 ranking.
Fast forward 12 months, through a record-setting season and a third place finish at the Women’s College World Series, and the Tigers are ranked third in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll.
High rankings often come with near-crippling expectations, but senior catcher Kellsi Kloss said LSU softball coach Beth Torina isn’t letting what’s on paper get into her players’ heads, even if the Tigers are in the spotlight from day one.
“The day the rankings came out, Coach Beth [Torina] changed the No. 3 to No. 300,” Kloss said. “[Torina] said, ‘This is how I want you guys to practice, as if you’re the worst team in the nation, and you’re striving to be No. 1.’”
The lofty ranking undoubtedly stems from nearly every member of the team who liked to rewrite the record book returning for the 2016 season.
The LSU pitching staff returns its three most featured pitchers from 2015 and adds freshman Sydney Smith. The Tigers return all but one starter (former center fielder A.J. Andrews) from their normal lineup, a lineup that helped make history happen regularly.
LSU started the 2015 season 25-0, the longest winning streak in program history. After toppling the top-ranked Florida Gators, the Tigers received their first ever No. 1 ranking.
Individual Tigers also etched their names in the record book.
Junior outfielder Bailey Landry hit safely in 21 straight games, a program record. Senior infielder Bianka Bell hit 18 home runs in 2015, setting the new single-season mark for LSU, and she became the career leader (44) with a full year of eligibility remaining.
To build on last season’s success, Torina said the Tigers are focusing on themselves.
“We have to continue doing the things that got us to this point, and then continue to try and make each player better, have everybody improve on what they already do well,” Torina said.
Kloss emphasized that the Tigers are staying humble and revealed that they’re hungry. She said being ranked No. 3 doesn’t change preparations. The Tigers are practicing hard, like they’ve got a lot of work to do, no matter where they’re ranked.
Kloss made it clear that LSU wants to be No. 1 when it counts — June.
Hoover echoed the idea that third isn’t good enough by saying that finishing third, just short of a national title, was probably one of the worst feelings she’s ever felt.
If another trip to the Women’s College World Series is on the horizon for LSU, Kloss said the Tigers will be ready to take the next step.
“We got a little taste of what it’s like, and of course our expectation was to go and win it,” Kloss said. “But now that we’ve had a little experience and the majority of the team has been there now, we know what it’s about. We’re not going to be star struck this year if we go. We’re going to have the expectation of winning it all. Last year was a little bit of a practice run, if you will, but now we’re ready to win the whole thing.”