Drama, perseverance bring LSU-E another title

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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“Staying the course” has been a key to Willis’s winning coaching philosophy over the years. “I teach my players that the game isn’t over until the last out,” he said in an interview some time ago. “There is no time limit in baseball.”


A dramatic home run propelled the LSU-Eunice Bengals to a sixth national baseball championship, but tradition, perseverance and a winning attitude helped set up the record-breaking win.

The final victory in the NJCAA World Series over the Cobras from Parkland College, a community college in Champaign, Illinois, marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Bengals had to come from behind to win — something of a trademark for teams led by Coach Jeff Willis.

The Bengals put together a rally in the eighth inning to tie the score at 3-3, and that was the score when LSU-E first baseman Slate Fuller came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Bengals had the winning run on first base, but they also had two outs.  Adding to the drama, Fuller had two strikes against him when he launched the home run over the left field wall that gave the Bengals a 5-3 win and secured the team’s sixth NJCAA Division II World Series title.

That is the most in NJCAA history. The other five were in 2002, 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2015. The Bengals finished second in the nation in 2013. In addition to the six national championships, Willis has led the Bengals to nine regional championships and eight district championships. LSU-E finished the season with a record of 59 wins and 6 losses.

LSU-E pitcher Zach Hester was named Pitcher of the Tournament, Koi Westbrook, whose hit tied the score in the eighth inning, was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Player.

“I’m so very, very proud of our guys for staying the course,” Willis said after the game.

“Staying the course” has been a key to Willis’s winning coaching philosophy over the years. “I teach my players that the game isn’t over until the last out,” he said in an interview some time ago. “There is no time limit in baseball.”

Talent counts, he said, but so does a winning attitude and confidence in yourself and your team.

“You must have confidence in order to succeed in any role in life; confidence comes from being prepared,” he said.

The coach believes those lessons and the winning attitude that they build can last through a lifetime.

“I set high standards for student athletes on and off the field and expect them to do their best in their academics and in their citizenship as members of the campus and community.  I expect our student athletes to have an attitude that they should win in everything that they do,” he said.

It seems to be working.

Since he became head coach, more than 140 Bengal players have earned scholarships with Division I colleges. Nearly 50 players who played for LSU-E have been drafted by major league teams. 

That combination of national titles and attention from Division I coaches and big league scouts has made LSUE one of the most recognized junior college programs in the nation.

Three things to know about this story:

  1. The team’s sixth World Series title is the most in NJCAA history.
  2. The final victory over the Cobras from Parkland College marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Bengals had to come from behind to win,          
  3. A combination of national titles and attention from Division I coaches and big league scouts has made LSU-E one of the most recognized junior college programs in the nation.

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