By Andrew Alexander
History was made and records eclipsed last weekend at Tiger Park, as the LSU softball team etched its name into the record books yet again, sweeping Arkansas and laying claim to the longest winning streak in program history.
The Tigers (25-0, 3-0 SEC) outscored the Razorbacks 23-1 en route to a perfect start in league play, just one of the handful of accomplishments from the Lady Tigers last weekend.
Saturday night featured a double dose of purple and gold history-making from junior Bianka Bell and sophomore Bailey Landry.
Bell blasted her 34th career home run in her first at-bat of the game, passing Rachel Mitchell to become LSU’s home run queen.
“It’s a great feeling and it will be nice to bask in that a little bit,” Bell said. “I know I still have a lot to work on, but I am really excited about it.”
“It’s crazy to think that when she was a freshman, we all knew she could set that record. It’s nice to see her actually accomplish it,” head coach Beth Torina added on Bell’s record-breaking performance. “I think she has done some great things in this program. She continues to get better and better every time she takes the field.”
Later in the game, Landry’s lone hit of the night gave her the longest hitting streak in LSU history at 16 consecutive games. She surpassed five other Tigers including current teammate A.J. Andrews. The Prairieville native and East Ascension High School product would go on to extend that hit streak to 17 games during LSU’s series finale victory on Sunday.
If all of that was not enough, Sunday’s win marked the latest LSU softball milestone in a season already filled with them. The Lady Tigers made quick work of Nebraska back in February to capture their best start in program history at 15-0.
The following week, LSU blasted Northwestern State, 15-1, to improve its record to 20-0, the best start to a season in LSU athletics history. After surpassing the 2010 softball squad’s 24-game win streak last weekend, the next record to fall might be the 26-game win streak set by the men’s basketball team in the 1980-81 season – the longest winning streak in LSU athletics history.
Despite the early season success, the fourth year softball coach remains steadfast in keeping her team focused on the stiff competition ahead.
“They get [Sunday night] to celebrate. Then they have to wake up in the morning and pretend that they are 0-25 and that is how we work,” Torina said. “We try to work like we are at the bottom and practice everything we can to earn our place. We also try to take nothing for granted and go back to work right away.”
Even after Sunday’s 7-1 victory of Arkansas, sophomore slugger Sahvanna Jaquish was not satisfied with the Tigers’ entire performance.
“I feel that we can limit the errors,” Jaquish said. “We made two errors today, and that’s something that teams could capitalize on. I also feel that we should score every inning, and we did not score the first inning. We have to make adjustments quicker at the plate.”
Spoken like a true Torina disciple.
Adopting the underdog role in practice this week will help the Tigers prepare for their upcoming contest versus No. 1 Florida (27-0) this weekend. LSU will travel to Gainesville to battle the defending national champions in the Tigers’ first true road games of the season.
Led by Bell’s .514, the Tigers wield a team batting average of .375 and have outscored opponents 199-28 this season. Bell leads the team in hits (38), doubles (10), while her eight home runs and 33 runs batted in are second only to Jaquish’s who has an blasted 11 balls out of the park as part of her 45 RBI.
Andrews’ .508 average has been fueled by 31 hits and Landry is not that far behind at .486.
In the circle, freshman Allie Walljasper’s 0.43 earned run average leads LSU’s dominant pitching foursome’s total ERA of 0.86.
Despite the gaudy numbers and the winning streak, the Tigers have faced only two ranked teams this season. This weekend’s matchup in Gainesville will serve as a measuring stick to see what LSU softball is capable of when up against the best in the nation.
To break the record set by Dale Brown’s 1981 Final Four squad, the Tigers will have to clinch the series by Saturday, winning game number 27 on the eve of NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday.
But even as more records fall and more come into the Lady Tigers’ focus, Torina wants to be sure that her team doesn’t get too starry eyed.
“They get [one night] to celebrate,” the coach coolly explained. “Then they have to wake up in the morning and pretend that they are 0-25 and that is how we work.”