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LSU head coach Beth Torina (left) at Monday's press conference.
Photo by:Steve Franz, LSU Athletics Staff Photographer
Softball Holds Annual Media Day
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Published: February 03, 2014, 03:39 PM (CT)
Updated: February 04, 2014, 10:30 AM (CT)
by Matt Dunaway, Associate SID

BATON ROUGE – The LSU softball program played host its annual media day Monday at Tiger Park. Head coach Beth Torina previewed the upcoming 2014 season and took questions from the media for approximately 30 minutes.

Prior to Torina's press conference, a quintet of players which included A.J. Andrews, Bianka Bell, Ashley Czechner, Allison Falcon and Kellsi Kloss met with the media inside the team's locker room for one-on-one interviews.

LSU is three days away from 2014 opening night where the Tigers will play host to No. 10 Texas at 6 p.m. CT. LSU welcomes Central Arkansas, Minnesota, Murray State, Oklahoma State and SIU-Edwardsville for the Tiger Classic. The three-day tournament runs from Feb. 7-9.

Season tickets can be purchased for $75 and single-game tickets are now on-sale at http://www.lsutix.net/ for a banner home schedule that features 15 games versus 2013 NCAA Tournament teams. LSU squares off with two more 2013 Women’s College World Series opponents in Florida (March 14-16) and national runner-up Tennessee (April 4-6) in addition to NCAA Tournament participants Georgia (April 11-13) and Mississippi State (May 2-4) for three-game SEC home series.

For all of the latest news and information on Tiger softball, visit www.lsusports.net/softball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball along with @lsusoftball and @BethTorina on Twitter and @lsusb on Instagram.

Below are some quotes from LSU softball media day.

HEAD COACH BETH TORINA

Opening Statement…
“Thank you so much for attending. It is a direct correlation to your support of this program and our sport. We have such a growing sport – nationally, in our community and right here on the LSU campus. We continue to increase our season ticket holders and attendance numbers. Thank you for being here and covering us. We really appreciate it. This offseason for me was a little crazy. I started last season without any children. I now have two little girls. It has been very exciting. We adopted one little girl in the summer named Taryn. We were very lucky and blessed to have another child in January. She is about a month old. Her name is Tatum. These are very exciting times for my husband Nick and I. The most exciting part for me is that I have been a mother of sorts to these 20 girls for the past two years. It is so exciting to see our players interacting with my two little girls. It has really increased my commitment to this team and these players. I just want to insure their success because of how close they are. It just makes us feel even more like a family.”

“Last season, of course, did not end at all how we wanted it to. With my commitment increased in this offseason, I just want to make sure something like that doesn’t happen to us again. Of course, there are no guarantees. We faced a very worthy opponent in ULL at the end of last season. It’s something that when your team doesn’t achieve its goals and feels that disappointment, it’s something you want to try to help them with and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It really has been a great fuel for us this offseason. We think about that moment all the time. We think about sitting in the locker room, standing at that press conference and finishing second. That is something we want to work every single day to make sure something like that doesn’t happen to this program again. We want to accomplish our ultimate goal, and that is making it to the College World Series every single year. That is something this LSU softball program truly deserves. That was the negative ending to our season.”

“Of course, there were a lot of positives last year that this softball program accomplished. We had two All-Americans that we are so proud of – A.J. Andrews and Rachele Fico. The SEC Freshman of the Year was Bianka Bell. We did get to host a regional. We were the overall number nine seed in the country. We played a very tough schedule. As we went through the post season, we were ranked number one in strength of schedule in the country. I think our record against that schedule shows a lot about the team we had and what we did on the field. The crown jewel of last season was the SEC West championship. It was neat that they were able to accomplish that in the last year to win the west. We get to hold the last SEC West trophy so that is fun for us. We enjoy that.“

“This season the girls have set out to continue to accomplish the goal of making it to the College World Series. Those of you who know me know that I always like to have a theme for the year. Our theme for this year is ‘Locked In’. It has a lot to do with setting our sights on the College World Series and also the military. They are like fighter pilots. They are going through the military discipline. We have done some really cool things this offseason. We were able to train with the marines the same way our women’s basketball team did. It taught us a lot leadership. They put the girls through some really daunting tasks. We saw a lot about their character when they were up against the adversity. It was a really fun offseason. We appreciate the Marines helping us out. Locked In has been our theme. You will see some things around the facility like the side of a plane over there. When we beat somebody or accomplish a goal, we get to put a kill logo on the side of the plane. We are enjoying the Locked In theme for this season.”

“Opening game is so close. We are so excited to host such a great opponent in Texas with such a great record and tradition. It is neat to have a season opener and not just be a part of a tournament. It is really nice to play that Thursday night game. We move right along to the tournament with Minnesota, who is a post-season team from last year, Oklahoma State, Central Arkansas, Murray State and SIU-Edwardsville. All of them have the potential to do big things in their conferences. We match that up with another really tough schedule. I think we have some great SEC teams coming into Baton Rouge. We are really excited about the season and what lies ahead of us three days away.”

On the importance of opening with tough competition like Texas…
“I think it is really important. The SEC has become a who’s who’s list in college softball. We never get a break when we face them. It’s nice to get our kids prepared to face similar types of pitching and offenses that we’ll see in the SEC. When we do get into that tough part of the season, we are going to be prepared.”

On Rachele Fico staying as a student coach for LSU softball…
“It has great for me because I am so close to her. I hate to see her go. She and I were really close. I think she brings a lot of this program with who she is as a person and her character. It goes way beyond the numbers she put up. She demanded that we win and play hard around her. That is still with us everyday. I think she brings a lot to the table.”

On freshmen pitchers Kelsee Selman and Baylee Corbello
“They’re very different. Kelsee Selman is more of a power-type pitcher. She does some phenomenal things on the mound and throws some great pitches. She still has a lot of growing to do as a pitcher. She’s a name I think you’ll hear a lot in the future of this program. Baylee Corbello is one that I think the people of Louisiana know a lot more about with her being the Gatorade Player of the Year and all the accolades she came here with. She does so many things for the program. She is the type of pitcher that’s going to keep people off balance a little bit more with a change in speed. She’s going to help us in the lineup too. She can swing, she can hit and she can compete with anyone in our lineup.”

On the potential power of her lineup…
“I think we still need to improve in the area of the power offense for sure. I think we’re still going to rely a lot on our speed game, and I think we would be crazy not to because they’re so talented. I think our speed is just unbelievable with A.J. Andrews, Jacee Blades and Simone Heyward as well. We also have Alex Boulet and adding Bailey Landry to that we have unbelievable speed players right now. We’re going to make sure we utilize that. You are going to see more power from us. I think you will see a lot of Sahvannah Jaquish in the lineup who is somebody that can swing for power. Kellsi Kloss has improved her power. Of course you add that to Bianka Bell, and you’re going to see good things.”

On the confidence in her young pitchers…
“They’re very talented so I think they’re going to do big things for us. As the season goes on, they’re just going to continue to get better and better. Like I said, Kelsee Selman has a lot of growing to do. I think you’re going to see her grow leaps and bounds throughout the course of this year getting some games under her belt. She is a very confident woman who is not afraid to go against anyone. I think you’re going to see good things from her. Baylee [Corbello] is just your ultimate gamer type of player. You can put her in any situation, and she is going to get it done for you. I think the two of them are going to be very important to us.”

On the strength of the defense…
“Hopefully, defense wins championships because I’m really confident in our defense as well. We put our outfield up against any outfield in the country. They are so quick and so talented. They have good arms, and they really cover a lot of ground. Our middle infielders both return. They are special especially Allison Falcon being a fifth-year senior. She really is a field general and controls the field and puts everyone at ease. We have some very special athletes at the corners. Sandra Simmons has to be one of the best first basemen in the conference. She is a hard-nosed player that will run through a wall for you, and Tammy Wray has been a mainstay at third base for this program for several years. She makes plays every day in practice that we just drop our jaws on because it is unbelievable. The two catchers are phenomenal. Right now, they’ll split time. Kellsi Kloss and Sahvanna Jaquish are booth really good receivers. Sahvanna Jaquish has an unbelievable throwing arm. You’re going to see a lot of things there from her. I think our defense is definitely our strength right now.”

On balancing the personality of the team…
“I love a team that has personality. I don’t want to create robots or kids that are going through the motions. I want them to have personality. It’s okay if they cut up and make a joke because these kids work hard. This is not a team that I ever have to ask to work. They are always working. They want to be better, and they want to achieve these goals. When you make it fun, you get a lot more out of them. We try to keep it light, keep it fun. Constance Quinn is our new comedian that we added as a freshman. It is enjoyable every day at practice, and that’s how I like it. I think you are going to hear some crazy things coming out of the dugout this year. They made some great new cheers. I just let them go at it. It is a game, and it is supposed to be fun.”

On Ashley Czechner’s role as the starter…
“She had a great year last year. She kept us in the ballgame against anyone we put her up against. She did a great job for us against all these [Southeastern Conference] opponents. She has proven she can do it. She’s competed against the best so I feel good about her being the workhorse for us this year.”

On the pressure surrounding A.J. Andrews
“It’s important for A.J. to just go out there and be herself. I hope she doesn’t feel like she has a lot of pressure because she has such a great lineup surrounding her with Jacee [Blades] and Simone[Heyward] around her in the lineup. She’s got so much protection and so many things around her that will help her that she doesn’t need to feel like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. She just needs to go out and be A.J. Andrews. That’s how she got the awards so hopefully she’ll do that again.”

On Bianka Bell growing from last year’s loss in the regional…
“She and I are in the same spot with it. It was a terrible feeling for everyone. She and I both took it really hard. I know she felt terrible about it and felt like she let down the program. She’s done a lot of things in the offseason to try and be better and just continue to work and grow. Most importantly, she has tried to have a different mental game. She’s trying to not put so much pressure on herself and understand the same thing as A.J. She’s got people around her that can help her. She has more in this lineup than before, and she’s got to be mentally tough. I think it was tough for her being a freshman and being the center of our lineup so when people faced us they were out to get Bianka Bell, the freshman. I think she will do so much better understanding the mentality of that this year and be more disciplined. I think she’s set to have a much better year even though she had a great one her first year.”

On the potential of Bianka Bell pitching in games…
“I hope that she will. She’s very talented. She throws very hard and does a lot of special things. I hope we get to use her. I think she’s a lot of fun to watch on the mound, and I think she’s capable of big things out there. I hope she gets in some games, I really do. I hope the combination of all of them get a chance to compete. At the end of the year, the one who is best will get the last game.”

On freshman catcher Sahvanna Jaquish
“I truly think she was one of the best catching recruits in the country, if not the best one this year. She is very special. She has handled a lot of different types of pitchers. She played at a really high level from the state of California. Not only can she swing the bat but she handles herself behind the plate very well. I call the games here for them, but she’s called the games for all these different pitchers in California. She’s done so many good things that I think she’s definitely prepared based on the schedule she’s played in the past. I think I have the best catching coach in the country too in Lindsay Leftwich. She works with them every single day. They don’t just sit in the bullpen. They work on catching skills. They do all kinds of different things to prepare them, and I think she does a good job of preparing them.”

LSU Softball Media Day
February 3, 2014

INFIELDER Allison Falcon

n the team dynamic with this year’s seniors…
“It is definitely a positively dynamic. The seniors are always talking and they are always positive about things such as getting out of jam. They have that leadership and confidence that propels them to be such good leaders. They are very vocal which makes practice a lot less boring than it could be. They also just lead with their actions; they are amazing. That class is very talented. That class is very fun to watch. It will be great for the fans to really see them grow into their roles and take leadership.”

On last year’s dominant defense…
“Coach Torina is always talking about our defense. She is always saying good things about our defense. It is always a great day at practice when we are working on defense. It is always fun. I know we are just going to get better in the infield. Our outfield is just so fun to watch. They are jumping over the fence. You saw Jacee [Blades] dive into the tarp last year. They just keep doing things like that. We are not just strong in the infield, our outfield is also amazing.”

On losing Rachele Fico as a leader…
“Fico was amazing. She is one of the people that when she talks, you listen. A lot of us are trying to emulate that and grow into that role. We are working on that, but we are lucky to have Fico with us in the bullpen as a student coach. She works with Ashley [Czechner], and our freshman pitchers Baylee Corbello and Kelsee Selmen. She is still here, and she is always very helpful. She gives us tips on anything she can. She is someone who has always bled purple and gold. It is good to have Rachele here as a student coach.”

PITCHER Ashley Czechner

On pitching as much as possible her senior year…
“I would love to. I just love having the ball. I feel more in control of the game and the tempo of the game when I am pitching. But, I also trust in Baylee Corbello and Kelsee Selmen. I know when they are out there, they are going to give 110%. I think they can win just as many games.”

On replacing Rachele Fico…
“Just like Coach Torina said, you do not replace a pitcher like Rachele Fico. She is just so phenomenal. Hopefully, we will leave a legacy of our own in a different way. Whether that means having an All-American or winning the World Series – whatever we can do for this program.”

On Rachele Fico as a student coach…
“She helps us with so much especially in the bullpen. If Coach Torina maybe is not getting through to one of us, Fico can say it in a different way. It just seems to click. She was just so great her four years. I still go to her when I have a question about a pitch or something along those lines. I am just really glad she is still here to help this team.”

On the strength of the team…
“I think we are improving all around. On offense, we have A.J. Andrews leading off. She is an incredible hitter. We have Bianka Bell in the middle of the lineup, and she is a phenomenal power hitter. Everyone else really contributes in their own way. Defensively, I feel as though we want to be one of the best in the country. As far a pitching, we work hard every day. Coach Torina is such a great pitching coach. I know she wants every aspect of our game to be the best that it can be.”

INFIELDER BIANKA BELL

On getting some work on the mound…
“It’s a great feeling. I’m excited about it. I probably won’t be getting that many innings, but whenever they need me to come in, I am going to be ready for them. I’m trying to fight for my team to get these wins.”

On coach emphasizing aspects besides pitching…
“I spend a lot of time on my pitching and fielding this year just to be ready for whatever happens.”

On the freshmen class this year…
“The freshmen are going to come in and step up for us this year. We have Sahvanna Jaquish behind the plate, and Constance Quinn who can play anywhere in the middle infield. She can hit. They are going to do a great job for us, and I’m really excited about this year.”

 

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