Deal Us In: LSU’s mantra for 2024

Courtesy of LSU Athletics

There are 52 cards in a standard playing deck. Each has its unique trait that makes it stand out from the rest. In the end, the 52 still come together as one. While a softball roster doesn’t have 52 players, there are parallels to take from a simple deck of cards.

“Each card has its own unique capability and we kinda equate ourselves to each card. This team is very individualized but together so strong,” LSU sophomore Sydney Berzon said.

Before the season, LSU decided this year’s motto would be ‘Deal Us In.’ Berzon mentioned that the team loved playing card games together and when it came time to figure out the yearly theme it came together quite perfectly.

“It’s the game within the game. Something else to focus on rather than the big picture. It gets stressful that we have to win, we have to produce. It’s cool to think about getting the best hand and doing the small things in the details,” LSU head coach Beth Torina said. “It’s something fun to keep us motivated.”

The cards are involved in everything thus far this season. It’s a well-thought-out plan that starts in the summer. Torina said they have certain timelines to involve different games or angles that can be incorporated based on results or before a specific series. That plays into the season because you don’t always know what hand you’ll be dealt.

The graphics on social media will feature different parts of the deck. The cards are used during practice and in the bullpen. Before LSU’s win against Texas, ESPN’s Amanda Scarborough in-depth look at how the Tigers have used the cards during practice.

LSU will face cards down and flip one over to pick their focus for that bullpen session. The cards vary from ’10 strikes to in to right-handed hitters’ to ‘your best combo to left-handed hitters’. Scarborough, a former pitcher and current pitching instructor, emphasized how that can make the daily routine more enjoyable.

“We’ve been able to incorporate them into everything we do,” Berzon said. “It does make the bullpen fun, defense fun when we can play those card games. It keeps it light in there and more-game like as softball should be played because it is a game. It’s supposed to be fun, yeah it’s our ‘9-5’ but we want it to be fun as much as it can be.

“We all started playing when we were young for the love of the sport and we need that reminded that we’re playing because we fell in love when we were three-, four-years-old when we started playing. It takes us back to why we play.”

Another prime example that includes the cards is what the Tigers do following every practice or game. The players can nominate their teammates who did well that day based on the Tigers traits; Trust, Integrity, Grit, Energy, Relentlessness, Selflessness. This can be picked because of a clutch defensive play or cheering from the dugout. As a reward for example, if you’re nominated based on energy, you get to pick an E-card.

LSU’s Header on X, formerly known as Twitter, displays the ‘Deal Us In’ motto.

The players have truthfully bought in and brought it to each game. Berzon or any pitcher on the staff isn’t going to have their best stuff every appearance. Taylor Pleasants won’t always come through in every clutch situation. Two-time Gold Glove recipient Ciara Briggs won’t make every play. You won’t always be dealt a pair of aces, but you can make another set of cards work

“You’re not always dealt the best hand and you have to play with what you have that day,” Berzon said. “One thing I like to say to my teammates between innings is ‘give 100% of what you have that day.’ That plays into that you may not be dealt the best hand but it’s what you do with the cards that you have and we keep moving forward. Even on our worst days we still know we have our strengths and put forward our best.”

LSU’s season thus far has shown that you do have to work with what you have. They didn’t plan on using freshmen Maddox McKee or Sierra Daniel as much but Danieca Coffey’s season-ending injury pushed them into those roles.

The Tigers couldn’t lose to begin the season. LSU was the last undefeated team in Division I softball. Then they had to deal with back-to-back SEC series losses directly after that. The Tigers responded with a sweep over a hot Texas A&M squad despite needing to take the lead late in every game.

A season is like a game of poker. There are the highs and lows, the unpredictable but in the end it is how you handle yourself. That’s why LSU has believed in its motto and why the Tigers are where they are this year.

“We try to weave it into our everyday. It’s in our language and what we talk about,” Torina said. “We talk about having an answer to everything, having a card for everything. One of my philosophies as a coach is that our individual strengths our celebrated because that’s what makes us strong. Having people with different strengths is what makes us great.”

LSU has had its eyes set on returning to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2017 and it certainly feels like the Tigers are all-in to get to Oklahoma City.

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