Can LSU-Eunice win a sixth national championship in baseball. Bengals have veteran lineup

Bobby Ardoin
Special to the Daily World
LSU-Eunice baseball coach Jeff Willis talks tp his players during the Region 23 championship game on on May 22, 2021. The Bengals advanced to the Division II National Junior College Athletic Association World Series.

When Jeff Willis glances into the dugout at many of his players, the LSU-Eunice baseball coach can’t help but remember the essential characteristic of the 2018 national champion team.

Like that team, the Bengals this season have a veteran roster. Many of the players decided to play an additional season in order to capture what they feel were a pair of missed championship opportunities.

Although that sense of urgency might seem a bit deferred, Willis said it has assisted in carrying the top-seeded Bengals (46-6) to  another Division II National Junior College Athletic Association World Series. 

LSUE began the season as the No. 1 team in Division II and after winning the Region 23 Tournament last weekend in a decisive championship game, the five-time national champion Bengals are approaching the World Series with a veteran mindset.

The Bengals are scheduled to play their first game Sunday at 7:15 p.m. LSUE will play either No. 8 Phoenix College or No. 9 Frederick Community College at David Allen Memorial Stadium in Enid, Oklahoma.

Willis said this year’s LSUE team is reminiscent of other Bengals’ teams that he has coached during his 19 seasons..

“This group reminds me a lot of some of the older teams we have had here in terms of their makeup," said Willis. "A lot of the players we have on this team remember when we won it in 2018.

“They came here in 2019 as freshmen and were the runner up in the regional tournament and they were determined to stay around and go back to the World Series (in 2020). They were 21-0 last year before we shut down due to COVID."

Infielder Brady Hebert of LSU-Eunice makes a play against East Central in the Region 23 championship game on on May 22, 2021. The Bengals advanced to the Division II National Junior College Athletic Association World Series.

“They also truly love one another and when you put all those things together, you get the picture of a winner,” Willis said.

Offensively Willis described his team as multi-faceted, with the ability to manufacture runs in a variety of ways.

The pitching staff has a lot of depth. In the regional Willis said the Bengals were able to effectively start pitchers who had not thrown for nearly a month with sufficient results.

“We have a whole group that are veteran hitters and are capable providing a quick inning and getting things out of control easily," said Willis.

“In the regional we had a bunch of games that had strong headwinds and a club that relies strictly on power may have had trouble with that. We have been able to bunt, run, steal and use our power, enabling us to take advantage of any type of conditions.”

LSUE World Series facts

Willis has 897 victories at LSUE along with Division II national titles in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2018.

This year’s World Series is divided into a pair of five-team brackets. The World Series winner will be determined by a championship format determined at the conclusion of bracket competition.

If both teams exit bracket play undefeated, the World Series winner will be determined in a best of three series. If one or both teams have a loss following bracket play, a format will be decided before the start of the championship round.