LSU unveils 2013 softball schedule

Matt Dunaway
LSU head softball coach Beth Torina.

Coming off the program's third Women's College World appearance, the LSU softball team released its 2013 schedule Monday as announced by head coach Beth Torina.

The Tigers continued their long-standing tradition of squaring off against the nation's elite. LSU will face at least one NCAA Tournament participant during every week of the season. In total, the 2013 slate features 37 contests against 20 teams that qualified for last season's NCAA's highlighted by a three-game home series with defending national champion Alabama and super regional participant Missouri.

"The 2013 schedule is very exciting and has a great mix of teams from some of the strongest conferences in the country," Torina said. "The non-conference portion will be a real test for us and will give our newcomers a great taste of what Division I softball is all about. I firmly believe that challenging our team all season long prepares us to be successful in the postseason and teaches us so much about ourselves."

LSU will play host to back-to-back non-conference tournaments to start the season, including the Tiger Classic [Feb. 8-10] on opening weekend. The Tigers will meet North Carolina and Tulsa, a pair of NCAA squads, in addition to Hampton and Purdue. Hampton is coached by Trena Peel, the 2002 SEC Player of the Year and former LSU All-American.

After a mid-week trip to Ole Miss [Feb. 13], the Tigers welcome Memphis, Nicholls State, North Dakota State and Virginia to Tiger Park for the Purple & Gold Challenge [Feb. 15-17].

LSU returns to the prestigious Cathedral City Classic [Feb. 21-24] in Palm Springs, Calif. for the third time in the last six seasons. The Tigers will take on Pac-12 powers Arizona and UCLA in addition to BYU, Ohio State and UNLV. LSU also will play an exhibition tilt against the USSSA Florida Pride of the National Pro Fastpitch [NPF] league while in Palm Springs.

LSU is scheduled to face fellow WCWS participant Oregon along with Louisville, Michigan, Penn State and Syracuse at the Citrus Classic [March 1-3] hosted by ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. to conclude the non-conference tournament schedule.

The Tigers will play mid-week non-conference home doubleheaders versus Georgia Southern [March 19] and Samford [March 30], a NCAA Tournament participant. LSU also will meet in-state foes Nicholls State [March 13], Southeastern Louisiana [March 26] and Northwestern State [April 24] for mid-week single games inside the friendly confines of Tiger Park.

The Tigers will make a return-trip to Florida State [April 3] for a twin bill. LSU also will travel to South Alabama [March 27] and McNeese State [April 17] for mid-week single game away contests.

The rugged SEC schedule consists of eight three-game series. The new 24-game format was released last March and eliminated the league's mid-week doubleheaders.

LSU will travel to Mississippi State [March 8-10] on SEC opening weekend before welcoming Kentucky [March 15-17] and South Carolina [March 22-24] to Tiger Park during consecutive weekends.

The Tigers also play host to Missouri [April 19-21] and Alabama [April 26-28] along with trips to Arkansas [April 5-7] and Texas A&M [April 12-14]. LSU will not face Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss or Tennessee as part of its SEC slate. The eight-team SEC Tournament will be held May 9-11 hosted by Kentucky.

"The changes in the SEC will be a big adjustment for our team and our fans," Torina said. "Overall, I think they will be exciting and extremely challenging as well. Adding two powerhouse teams like Texas A&M and Missouri just continue to grow our league and make it as tough as any in the country. We know that we have a challenge every time we take the field in SEC play. Facing these challenges will only make each team in our conference stronger and more successful in the postseason."

LSU brings back 13 letterwinners highlighted by NFCA All-America First-Team hurler Rachele Fico and All-SEC Freshman pick A.J. Andrews.

Fico garnered a 20-13 record, a stout 1.12 ERA, amassed 221 strikeouts and limited opponents to a .183 batting average during her 230.1 innings of work. All four marks were among the SEC's Top 6.

Andrews provided one of the most memorable moments of the 2012 season when she scored on an infield popup to vault LSU to a 1-0 win over South Florida at the WCWS.

The Tigers will welcome six newcomers into the fold sparked by Bianka Bell and Ashley Czechner. Bell is the reigning Florida Gatorade Player of the Year, while Czechner pitched Chattanooga State to the 2012 NJCAA National Championship.