The Tigers’ softball season is around the corner, leading off with the LSU Invitational Tournament on Feb. 8.
While conference play doesn’t begin until March, LSU will see opponents from around the country with star aces in the circle.
Here are the pitchers that will make it difficult for LSU batters to stay ahead in the count or hit out of the park.
Payton Gottshall, Tennessee
Gottshall pitched the Lady Vols to the Women’s College World Series in 2023, shutting out then No. 13 Texas in the super regionals. She finished the season 16-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 110 innings pitched.
With star pitcher Ashley Rogers now graduated, Gottshall will be Tennessee’s main starter this season, and she’ll be a formidable opponent in the circle. Gottshall was named to the 2024 Preseason All-SEC Softball Team. She will aim to set new career highs in her last season, and LSU will see her on April 19.
Tennessee is ranked No. 2 in the preseason ESPN/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll. Facing Gottshall and the Lady Vols will be one of LSU’s toughest regular-season matchups.
Karlyn Pickens, Tennessee
Named to the 2024 Preseason All-SEC Softball Team, Pickens will be in the rotation as another starter for Tennessee, and is a familiar opponent for LSU. She pitched a total of eight innings against the Tigers in 2023, and only allowed two hits.
Pickens was the 2023 SEC Freshman of the Year and tossed five complete games and five shutouts. This year, the Gottshall and Pickens duo will surely throw the Tiger’s a challenge.
Citlaly Gutierrez, Texas
In her sophomore season with the Longhorns, Gutierrez is on the rise to be Texas’ key starting pitcher. In 2023, she finished the season with a team-low 2.0 ERA and was named to the All-Big 12 Conference Freshman Team. Recently, she earned a spot on the 2024 Big 12 Softball Preseason Team.
LSU will host Texas on March 12, and with the Longhorn’s being ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll, this game will be a strong non-conference test for the Tigers.
Ruby Meylan, Washington
On Feb. 17, LSU will take on the Huskies in the Clearwater Invitational in Florida. Washington is placed at No. 10 in the rankings right now and leading them is sophomore pitcher Meylan.
She was First Team All-Pac-12 in 2023 and named to the USA Softball Player of the Year Watchlist. Meylan is No. 21 on the D1Softball Preseason Top 100 Players ranking list. She will fire a loaded pitch sequence against the Tigers, being a tough matchup for the Tigers.
Maddie Penta, Auburn
Penta returns this season as Auburn’s starting pitcher. She threw for 220 innings last year and ended with a 1.33 ERA.
Last season, Penta pitched all seven innings in the first game against LSU, which Auburn won 5-3. She came back on Sunday in the last game of the series, and pitched 8.2 innings. Penta didn’t give up any runs, allowing Auburn to win 1-0.
This season she will come back stronger in the series against LSU, which starts April 12.
Lexi Kilfoyl, Oklahoma State
In the Clearwater Invitational, LSU plays Oklahoma State on Feb. 17 before taking on Washington.
After pitcher Kelly Maxwell transferred to Oklahoma during this offseason, Kilfoyl will become the Cowgirls’ main starter. She finished last season with a 1.70 ERA.
This year, Kilfoyl gained a spot on Softball America’s Top 100 Player list. She was also named to the 2024 Big 12 Softball Preseason Team. Kilfoyl can be trouble for the Tigers, throwing a challenging set of pitches against each batter.
Lauren Boyd, Northwestern
Boyd is a senior for the Wildcats, and LSU will face her on Feb. 16 in the Clearwater Invitational. Last season, she was a solid backup for graduate student pitcher Danielle Williams. Now, Boyd will take the reins in the pitcher’s circle and be an essential ace starter.
Boyd had a career-best ERA in 2023 with a 2.24. She has the ability to be one of the top pitchers in the Big Ten and will give LSU a challenge in the batter’s box.