LSU coach Howard Dobson was born to be a Tiger.
The Sulphur, Louisiana, native moved from place to place in his 23-year coaching career, but he was always meant to end up in Baton Rouge.
He started as assistant coach at his alma mater, McNeese State University, and then moved on to Southeastern Louisiana University and University of Houston. Soon after, Dobson settled in as an assistant coach for the University of Oklahoma for five seasons starting in 2003.
Dobson helped lead the Sooners to two Women’s College World Series appearances, four Super Regional tournaments and five-straight Regionals during his tenure. The Sooners also led the Big 12 Conference in runs in all of those seasons, and Dobson coached seven All-Americans and 20 All-Big 12 honorees.
Dobson then left Oklahoma to become head coach at the Unviersity of Southern Mississippi. Under Dobson’s tutelage, four-time All-Conference USA performer Megan Hill set school records with 205 hits, 151 RBIs, 148 runs scored and 48 home runs.
But his next stop after Southern Miss, he said, is a dream come true.
Dobson joined the LSU softball staff in 2012 as coach Beth Torina took helm of the program. He serves as the program’s hitting coach and assists with recruiting.
“This is the place [my wife and I] wanted to be,” Dobson said. “For us, it was like winning the lottery.”
Dobson and Torina were already familiar with one another. Soon after Dobson left Houston for Oklahoma, Torina served as an assistant coach for the Cougars. As Dobson was the head coach at Southern Miss, Torina became the head coach for Florida International University.
When former LSU coach Yvette Girouard retired from the program after 10 years, Torina took over, and Dobson left Southern Miss to join her.
“We buy houses together,” Dobson joked. “It seems like every time I get a job, she gets a job.”
Dobson returned to the Women’s College World Series in his first season with the Tigers, and the team had a 65-point improvement in batting average between 2012 and 2013. Five former Tigers batted averages over .300 in 2013, including center fielder A.J. Andrews, shortstop Bianka Bell and left fielder Jacee Blades.
The Tigers had three hitters with averages over .300 through the 2017 season, and former right fielder Bailey Landry helped lead the way with a .402 batting average and 21 extra base hits. Her 92 hits throughout the season also led the Southeastern Conference.
“We had some really good hitters come through here and did some really good things,” Dobson said. “We’re really fortunate to have the athletes that we had.”
Players like sophomore first baseman Amanda Doyle and sophomore left fielder Aliyah Andrews are making their own marks with the program this season. The biggest change for Doyle from her freshman and sophomore season has been maturing and becoming mentally stronger to face the talented pitchers in the SEC.
“She was trying to back up and protect Sahvanna [Jaquish], and she had some big shoes to fill [last season],” Dobson said. “Now she’s the one that gets to swing big and people are protecting her. Even one at-bat didn’t define her season, it was the next at-bats coming. She built on those things and flushed that one at-bat that wasn’t her best at-bat and moved on to a better one.”
Dobson looks to the batters in the top of the lineup, like Andrews and senior center fielder Emily Griggs, and how they have found ways to improve as the season progressed. As the top two people in the batting lineup, they both have the two of the higher batting averages of the team.
“Aliyah has been hot for us all season long, and Emily is just as steady as they come,” Dobson said. “So as long as those kids keep doing what they are doing, we should be a pretty decent spot.”
Dobson is also known as one of the best recruiters in college softball. Not only does he help provide depth and consistency to the plate, but he also finds dominance in the circle. Both of his senior pitchers, Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper, have been decorated with All-American and All-SEC honors throughout their collegiate careers.
“Coach Dobson is just a great guy,” Walljasper said. “He always has new information for us. It’s great to have all of the resources that [he and coach Lindsay Leftwich] give to us.”
Torina praises Dobson for the work he’s done assisting her as she continues to grow the program.
“He’s really special with the offense,” Torina said. “He just knows the game and knows hitting and is able to communicate it clearly to our team.”
According to Dobson, LSU is not quite yet a hitting school, but he helps motivate his team every day for it to become that way.
“You see our kids progress,” Dobson said. “They come in here and do some good things, and every year they come and do a little bit better. They might have some steps back here and there, but we continue to grow and keep getting better.”