BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)  LSU Softball is 10 days away from the first pitch of their 2023 season.

The Tigers begin the year ranked 20th in the country by ESPN and 25th by the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Top 25 Coaches Poll.

Head coach Beth Torina’s team returns 7/9 starters and their ace, Ali Kilponen, from 2022. Yet the team is also expecting key contributions from freshman in the circle and behind the plate.

With a combination of experience and youth, a lot of the coaching on this year’s team is done by the players.

“This is their team. They give us feedback. They direct how a lot of things go. They always say you want to be coach fed and player led and we’re truly player led. When we have such a strong group as this and we trust them wholeheartedly.” Torina said.

Kilponen leads a pitching staff that brings back just one other starter from last year in sophomore Raelin Chaffin. The group adds three freshmen right handers in Emma Strod, Alea Johnson, and Sydney Berzon.

“They call me ‘Grandma.’ So I think that just kind of comes with how old I am and being the veteran, but being able to just share that experience that I have. You know, Coach says something, being able to say it in a different way that they might understand better.” Kilponen said.

In addition, this year’s team will feature a pair of new Tigers via the transfer portal. Karli Petty, coming over from Oklahoma State, is the only person on the roster with college World Series experience.

“She came here in August, and everybody’s asking her questions about ‘How was it like, what did you guys do?’ And it’s been kind of instrumental in to like where we want to do.” Graduate student Georgia Clark said.

Also, Hannah Carson, an experienced catcher from Michigan. She carved out a new role for herself this year to work with freshman catcher Maci Bergeron.

“The cool thing about Hannah, too, is she knows how talented Macy is. She recognizes that. And she’s even made statements to our team that part of her legacy here is that she’s going to make Macy the greatest catcher that she can possibly be.” Torina said.

All the key contributors remarked about the bittersweet ending to last year. Taylor Pleasants says she gets flashbacks during these early preseason practices to moments from the previous year, and she knows that she does not want to let that happen again.

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