Inconsistency remains the fatal flaw for LSU softball as season ends in Stanford Super Regional

LSU softball dropped a decisive Game 3 in the Stanford Super Regional on Sunday, bringing the Tigers’ 2024 season to a close. The loss marked a sixth-straight year without a trip to the Women’s College World Series.

The three-game super regional was representative of how this year played out for Beth Torina’s group. LSU looked like one of the best teams in the country on Friday night after opening the series with an 11-1 win. The Tigers looked like the team that began the year 24-0.

But the final two games resembled the back half of the season. Good pitching kept LSU in the game late, but the offense didn’t have the juice to get it done.

LSU began the postseason outscoring opponents 29-2 over its first four games. In the final two losses, LSU didn’t plate a single run and was outscored 11-0. 2024 was a tale of two teams.

At its best, LSU could beat anyone in the country. The offense put up six runs against NiJaree Canady — the nation’s ERA leader — on Friday night. If LSU can score against her, it can score against anyone. Earlier this year, LSU upset Texas, the No. 1 team in America.

I’m not just saying this team had the potential to compete with the best. It did compete with the best. That’s why it’s a shame we won’t get to see this team compete in Oklahoma City, but it was a matter of consistency or lack thereof that got us to this point.

That’s been the story of the last six years for LSU. Following three straight WCWS appearances from 2015-17, LSU has struggled to get back to that point. The super regional win on Friday was LSU’s first since picking up a game against Florida State in 2018, a series it eventually lost. Last year, LSU didn’t make it out of the regional after dropping a Game 7 in Tiger Stadium to in-state rival UL Lafayette.

That’s not the standard Torina set for this program when she took them to back-to-back-to-back WCWS. I’m sure she’d be the first to say that.

Next year, the path won’t get any easier. Softball powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas are joining the conference. LSU, one of the country’s most experienced groups in 2024, will be tasked with replacing some of the program’s most productive players. All of that doesn’t bode for much optimism in 2025.

Torina’s job is safe, and it should be. She’s won 665 career games in 13 years with LSU and the Tigers’ are perennially in the top 25. Her pitching staffs are among the nation’s best year in and year out and she’s responsible for four of LSU’s six WCWS appearances.

But this program needs to find consistency. When Torina’s program was at its peak, 2015-17, it wasn’t just the pitching getting it done. Sahvanna Jaquish, Bianka Bell and Bailey Landry provided the LSU lineup with some serious pop. LSU’s struggled to find the same offensive star power since.

With key veterans on the way out, LSU will hit a reset button. The lineup will be full of new faces next year. That means LSU has a chance to find that offensive slugging it once had. LSU needs more hitters it trusts to come through in big moments against pitchers like Canady, likes the ones it’ll see every week in the SEC.

LSU doesn’t need to make the WCWS every year, but six years is a long time for a program of this level to not play in OKC. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be competing at the top of the SEC, especially when it’s proven it has the talent to do so.

There aren’t many places around the country where fans have the bandwidth to care about football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, gymnastics and softball. Four of those six programs have won national titles in the last five years with men’s basketball and softball the only two without won.

In Baton Rouge, if your program has the relative resources to win a national title, that’s what the fans expect. That can be a blessing and a curse. The pressure is mounting on the program to get back to where it was six years ago.

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Story originally appeared on LSU Tigers Wire