For as long as she coaches LSU softball, Beth Torina may be linked to the wild circumstances under which she received the biggest break of her coaching career.
Who can forget the buzz that filled the LSU campus last summer when Patrick Murphy announced he was leaving the Alabama program he’d built into a national powerhouse for the Crimson Tide’s biggest rival? Who can forget the disappointment when, only a few days later, Murphy announced he had had a change of heart and would be staying in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after all?
That’s where Torina came in, leaving her post at Florida International and taking over in Baton Rouge as LSU’s second-try hire.
It would have been virtually impossible for any new coach to match the initial sizzle Murphy inspired, but Torina was a name most fans of LSU athletics had probably never heard and came from a school some of her own new players had probably never followed.
Less than a year later, however, Torina has the LSU softball program headed to Missouri for its first appearance since 2007 in the NCAA super regionals.
Make no mistake, the Tigers wouldn’t be there without their coach.
Torina made a number of moves Sunday in the final of the College Station regional that were the difference between breaking through for a 2-1 victory over No. 8 national seed Texas A&M and falling short to the Aggies on their home field for the second year in a row.
Conventional wisdom suggested LSU should start junior Rachele Fico in the circle for the third time in as many games.
Fico had been dominant in her team’s first two games, shutting out Texas State and Texas A&M on back-to-back days in 14 innings of four-hit softball.
Torina instead went with senior Brittany Mack, who kept the Aggies off the board for six innings Sunday before surrendering an RBI single in the seventh.
With that kind of pitching, the Tigers needed only a little help from their oft-maligned offense.
Torina helped make sure they got it when she trotted out freshman Kailey MacCasland to pinch-hit for junior Lauren Houston with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth. MacCasland promptly knocked a sacrifice fly into left-center, scoring Allison Falcon from third for the game’s first run and setting the stage for LSU’s second upset of A&M in as many days.
That’s surely the kind of thing Athletic Director Joe Alleva had in mind when he introduced Torina to the LSU community 11 months ago.
The Tigers were no juggernaut through the regular season, losing eight of 10 down the stretch and falling out of the national rankings three weeks before beginning NCAA tournament play. But after sweeping through the regional with a 3-0 mark, they now find themselves just two wins from advancing to their first Women’s College World Series in eight years.
Torina certainly has them pointed in the right direction.