Tigers head west to Las Vegas

After a less than satisfactory 3-2 finish in the Tiger Classic last weekend, LSU Softball head coach Yvette Girouard hopes her team will have a better showing this week in the UNLV Softball Classic. <br><br> The Tigers (3-2) open up play Friday taking on Portland State at 1:00 in the first game of a double-header. LSU will take on the Wisconsin Badgers later in the afternoon at 3:30 pm.

A Saturday double-header closes out the Tigers stay in Las Vegas. LSU take on second-ranked California at 1:00 and concludes the tournament against the Utah at 3:30 pm.


"We hope every adverse situation arises before conference play begins so we can improve our decision making," Girouard said. "We need to learn to understand what it takes to be prepared on game day."


Sophomore right-fielder and Tiger Classic all-tournament member Lauren Castle is the leading hitter for the Tigers through the first five game of the season. The Lafayette native is six for her first 13 for a .462 average


While the Tigers are hitting an impressive .345 as a team to start the season, Girouard biggest area of concern early in the season has been defensively. LSU has committed eight errors, six of which have been on the infield.


"I was very disappointed in the defense," Girouard said. "We'll get better."


Girouard also hope the tournament away from Baton Rouge will serve as another step in the maturation of freshman pitcher/infielder Emily Turner. The talented California native showed shines of brilliance this past weekend but also exhibited the nervousness of a freshman making her debut.


"I got my first taste of college ball getting that homerun hit off of me," Turner said. "I have got to learn that this is not high school anymore, I'm not going to be able to blow it by people in my freshman year like I'm used to doing.


"You cannot blow it by batters anymore. First off I'm three feet further back than in high school and second there are great athletes on every team. They are going to hit anything you throw down the middle like I did today."


Turner feels confident that she will continue to improve as the season progresses.


"It's kinds of frustrating that I worked so hard and things didn't go my way this weekend," Turner said. "I'm going to work hard this weekend on spinning the ball better and hitting the spots the catcher puts up for me."


The Tigers open up tournament play against the Vikings of Portland State in the first ever meeting between the two schools. The game will also be the season opener for Portland State.


Coming off a 19-29 2003 campaign, head coach Teri Mariani's squad return seven starters and 10 letter-winners from last year's squad.


Senior second baseman Erin Stokey is the Vikings leading returning hitter. The former Arkansas transfer hit .336 last season with five home runs and 26 RBI. In 140 at-bats, Stokey only struck out 11 times.


Junior third baseman Kayla Lewis also returns to give the Vikings a second offensive threat in the infield. The Eugene, OR. native hit .294 last season and drove in 20 runs.


In the circle, sophomore right-hander Michelle Hext is the only returning player with any experience. The 5-4 Hext went 5-11 last season and in 99 2/3 innings of work had a 2.25 ERA.


The Classic will also serve as the season opener for Karen Gallagher's Wisconsin Badgers. Finishing 19-26 last season and in eighth place in the Big 10, the Badgers will have one of the youngest teams in the tournament with 13 of their 22 players either freshman or sophomores.


With such a young team, three veterans on the infield play an important role in any success that Wisconsin hopes to have this season. Senior first baseman Meghann Reiss is coming off a 2003 season that saw her hit a team-leading five doubles. She also had two home runs and 13 RBI.


Junior shortstop Kristin Zacher drove in a team-leading 19 runs last season to go along with five doubles and three home runs while Third-team all-Big Ten catcher Boo Gillette lead UW with a .296 average and had 37 hits, three of which were triples.


Junior right-hander Katie Layne is the lone returning pitcher for the Badgers. Layne went 3-9 last season with a 4.41 ERA in 85 2/3 innings of work. The Vallejo, Calif. native struggled getting batters out throughout 2003, allowing an unheard .326 opponents batting average. Freshman Eden Brock will be looked to try and carry some of the load in the circle for the Badgers.


One of the premiere teams in the tournament and in collegiate softball, the California Bears will face-off against the Tigers on Sunday. The 2002 National Champions, the Bears have defeated the Tigers in their previous two meetings.


The Bears come into the weekend with a perfect 6-0 record after taking home the Sacramento Express Tournament title with victories over St. Mary's, Sacramento State and San Jose State.


Head coach Diane Ninemire's second-ranked Bears may be the best offensive team in the tournament, hitting .345 as a team.


Junior shortstop Chelsea Spencer is off to a torrid start, collecting 11 hits in her first 21 at-bats for a .521 average. Junior outfielder Kaleo Eldridge has also had a solid start to the season with a .435 average and has driven in a team-leading seven runs.


Junior Kelly Anderson and sophomore Kristina Thorson have been solid in the circle for the Bears thus far. Both are a perfect 3-0 and have a 0.33 ERA. In a combined 42 innings of work, they have only allowed 19 hits and have struck out 38.


Mona Stevens' Utah Utes come in with a 3-1 record and are led by the duo of freshman Devina Quintero and senior Glennis Donnelly.


Quintero has started off the season collecting nine hits, four of which have been home runs in her first 13 at-bats and already has 11 runs driven in. Donnelly meanwhile is nine for her first 14 and also has four home runs.


Through their first four games, four different Utes have started in the circle. Freshman Samantha Schroeder (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and Melissa Oaks (0-0, 2.43 ERA) along with sophomore Brianna Gourdin (2-0, 3.11 ERA) and senior Heather Bowlin (0-1, 8.40 ERA) are all expected to see action this

weekend for the Utes.

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