OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (WAFB) - The LSU softball team certainly has its share of loyal and passionate fans. Look no further than the packed houses of roughly 3,000 last weekend at Tiger Park to witness the Tigers dismantle Arizona during the NCAA Super Regional. Still, without question, there will be a few people catching their first LSU softball game of the season Thursday at 1:30 p.m. That's when the purple and gold square off against Auburn in the Women's College World Series. Everyone loves a winner and big time events like this always garner first-time viewers. So, with that in mind, here's just a few things to know about the LSU team.
1. It's Torina, not Torino
She was hired nearly four years ago. Yet, some people just keep buying the wrong vowel at the end of head coach Beth Torina's name. If you don't believe me, then perhaps take a quick tour of Facebook or an LSU chatroom. It is probably not the best use of your time, but in this case, consider it research. Maybe it's the lasting effects of legendary Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed 2008 release Grand Torino, or the infatuation with new LSU football assistant "Coach O," Ed Orgeron. Whatever the case, "Coach Beth Torino" is still getting her fair share of run these days. The problem is she's not the head softball coach at LSU. It's like talking to an empty chair with these people. So, get off my lawn and let's all say it together - BETH TORINA.
2. They're the Tigers, not Lady Tigers
I must admit. This subject really irked me a few years back when I was corrected and lectured about the topic. In my book, a men's LSU sports team was always called "The Tigers," while a women's LSU sports team was referred to as "The Lady Tigers." Oh, what a grave mistake I had made.
"Lady Tigers are the only teams that have a male counterpart," said LSU sports information director Clyde Verdin. "Such as, men's basketball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's golf."
So, softball can't be viewed as the female counterpart to baseball, even though the sports are largely similar and played at the same time of year? Not a chance, Verdin stated.
"It's an all-dirt infield, man. There's no grass in here," he joked.
And, apparently there is no female connotation for the softball mascot either.
"Please don't write Lady Tigers on Facebook. It's TIGERS," Verdin pleaded jokingly.
So obviously, "Geaux Lady Tigers and Coach Torino!" wouldn't work either?
Okay, let's move on.
3. Dugout goofiness highly encouraged
Can you imagine LSU running back Leonard Fournette wearing a Tiger mask and acting the fool behind head coach Les Miles during a CBS halftime interview? Or, incoming basketball phenom Ben Simmons peeking over Johnny Jones' shoulder in a team huddle sporting a horse head? Yeah, neither of those ideas would likely go over very well. But in college softball, playful and insistent goofiness, even when the situation is tense and the game is on the line, is prominent.
"What other sport do you hear teams cheering the way you hear them cheering in softball?" LSU senior outfielder AJ Andrews asked. "It's been like that since we've been little, coming up with crazy stuff. It just goes along with the game. The crazier you are the louder the fans get. The louder we get, the better we perform."
One of the more entertaining parts of each LSU game is Torina's television interview between innings. Several LSU players typically "photobomb" Torina, often wearing Mardi Gras masks or even writing, "Hi Mom," on the inside of a pizza box and holding it behind her head.
Some critics say the sport loses creditability because of such shenanigans. I say, "Relax and wait a few months to take yourself and everything else too seriously. It's called football season."
4. "Hit the ball B!"
LSU junior shortstop Bianka Bell is one of the most dynamic players in the sport. When Bell connects with her bat, towering home runs and roaring line drives soon follow. She easily leads the team in slugging percentage at .813 and is tied with junior third baseman Sahvanna Jaquish for most home runs with 17. Although she delivered the game winning hit in extra innings to send LSU to the Super Regional, it's been awhile since Bell really smashed one in a big situation. If she can deliver a couple of round trippers in Oklahoma City, it could certainly energize this LSU team tremendously and propel it towards big things.
5. LSU has never won a national championship
Hall of Fame coach Yvette Girouard took LSU to the Women's College World Series twice (2001 and 2004) and finished an impressive third both times. Beth Torina's first LSU team wobbled into the NCAA Tournament with a less than impressive 34-22 overall record in 2012, yet caught fire and reached the WCWS. The team finished fifth in Oklahoma City and was perhaps the surprise of the year in Louisiana sports. This LSU squad has proven it cannot only beat but flat out whip some of the best teams in college softball. The Tigers, fortunately, survived a recent late season lull (at least two balls Nebraska hit at Tiger Park in the NCAA regional nearly ended LSU's season) and have now regained their confidence. With dynamite freshman pitcher Carley Hoover in the circle, junior first baseman Sandra Simmons swinging a sizzling bat and little second baseman Constance Quinn peppering her own share of gappers, this team has a shot to win LSU's first ever national championship in softball. It's all about playing your best at the most important time.
Please catch my reports from Oklahoma City on WAFB-TV and follow me on Twitter @jacquesdoucet for the latest on LSU Softball at The Women's College World Series.
By the way, none of you are "dummies."