It’s evident that something is different about the 2013 LSU softball team, which has already hit two more home runs and averaged almost two more runs per game than last season.
Just one season after struggling through a poor offensive campaign, the Tigers have consistently produced high-scoring games. The biggest difference so far? The team’s slew of true freshmen.
Bianka Bell, Sandra Simmons and Kellsi Kloss have sparked an offense that, at many times, appeared stagnant in 2012. The trio has combined for 25 RBIs and seven of LSU’s 15 home runs.
“Just the way the freshmen come up and attack — the way they swing hard and swing fearless — I think that goes throughout the whole lineup,” said LSU coach Beth Torina.
Torina knows the effect the new players have had on the squad better than anyone. Before the season, Torina raved about the freshmen, forecasting their major roles in the Tigers’ lineup, and she was right.
Simmons, Bell and Kloss have each made individual plays that directly influenced at least one LSU victory.
In the Tigers’ victory against BYU last weekend, Simmons launched a seventh-inning grand slam, vaulting LSU to a 10-6 win. In that same game, Bell reached on a one-out single to set up Simmon’s slam.
Kloss had a game-winning home run of her own on opening weekend, giving LSU a 1-0 victory against Purdue.
Though only playing in eight of the Tigers’ games, Kloss is tied for the team lead in home runs with three. Bell and Simmons are tied for second on the team with two.
“The upperclassmen are stepping up and they’re getting on base for me or [Simmons] or anyone else to hit the home runs or doubles or triples to score those runs,” Bell said.
As one of the top softball prospects in the country last year, Bell said being on a team with players just as talented as she is has been a big change.
“Coming to college was a big culture shock, and having to compete for a position was a really big struggle to me,” Bell said. “It helped me to be the player that I am right now. But I still have a lot of work to do, and I’m going to keep working to hang on to my spot.”
Simmons said one reason for the freshmen’s early success is the way the upperclassmen have accepted them into the fold and not treated them as freshmen.
Junior third baseman Tammy Wray said team chemistry is an important part of the team’s success, and the rest of the team’s goal is to make the freshmen feel like anyone else on the team with equal responsibilities.
“At this point, age doesn’t matter,” Wray said. “We’re all focussed on the same thing. We’re all out here doing the same conditioning and weights and putting in just as much effort as each other.”