Lady Bengals’ 5th title a special run
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 10th of a 12-story series celebrating LSUE’s baseball and softball national championships.
By Tom Dodge
With a championship ring already in their possession, the 2017 Lady Bengals wanted to be the second LSUE team in program history to repeat as national champions.
LSUE won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
The Lady Bengals opened the 2017 Region 23 tournament with an 8-1 loss to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, but rebounded with a 5-1 victory over Itawamba Community College.
LSUE advanced to the national tournament with an 8-0 revenge win over MGCCC.
The No. 4 ranked Lady Bengals blasted four home runs to help grab a 7-2 win over Wabonsee Community College in the world series opener. Jordan Bishop’s RBI single and Jeannemarie Angelle’s two-run home run provided the opening blows and a 3-0 advantage.
Bobbi Smith and Hannah Vidallier each blasted home runs an inning later to pad LSUE’s lead.
Vidallier hit two runs in the game including a sixth inning solo shot to end the Bengals scoring.
Abigail Leonards earned the win for LSUE after throwing a complete game while allowing four runs, nine hits and striking out eight batters.
The Lady Bengals earned a close win over Des Moines Area Community College as Mima Doucet’s two-run single in the sixth inning was just enough in a 3-2 victory.
LSUE’s explosive offense was held in check for half the game, trailing 2-0 entering the fifth inning.
Rebecca Skains’ home run helped the Lady Bengals close the gap to 2-1.
Elizabeth Fontenot earned the win after throwing six innings and striking out a pair.
Leonards came in relief to preserve the tight victory.
LSUE then won two games in one day to advance to the title game at Traceway Park.
The Bengals cruised 12-2 mercy-rule in the quarterfinals after racing out to nine quick runs in the first two innings.
Angelle had a bases clearing double in the first inning followed by a Haley Godeaux RBI single.
Skains hit the first of two home runs in the game during a five-run second inning.
Her second home run was a three-run blast in the fourth to up LSUE’s lead to 12-1.
Leonards earned the win after throwing all five innings, surrendering two runs, four hits with a walk and strikeout.
LSUE’s Molly Wilson hit an one-out solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to help lift the Lady Bengals to a 10-9 win over the Phoenix Lady Bears in the winner’s bracket final.
LSUE exploded for five runs in the bottom of the second, begun when Emily Henderson walked and scored on a double by Haley Godeaux.
Doucet followed with a triple to plate Godeaux.
Smith walked, Sierra Gasca reached on a bunt and they both scored on hit by Darby Bishop as the Lady Bengals led, 5-0.
LSUE added a run in the bottom of the third when Doucet walked and scored on a double by Smith.
Phoenix rallied for four runs in the top of the fourth, but LSUE responded with a crucial run when Skains hit a solo home run in the bottom of the inning to extend the Lady Bengals’ lead to 7-4.
After the Lady Bears closed the gap to 7-5 in the top of the fifth, back-to-back home runs by Bishop and Henderson extended LSUE’s lead to 9-5.
Phoenix responded with four runs in the top of the seventh to force a tie game.
Fontenot and Leonards threw a strong game against a powerful Lady Bear offense that finished with 11 hits.
The Lady Bengals won their fifth national championship with a dramatic 8-7 win over top-ranked Jones County Junior College.
Henderson scored the game winning run when she advanced on a squeeze bunt by Godeaux and the Lady Bengals’ celebration began.
“I had a hunch as I saw the defense playing back a little bit,” Lee said. “I knew we had great speed both at the plate and third base.
I had a gut feeling this would work because Haley was a great bunter and I thought we would get a good pitch in that count to bunt at.
“I decided to call it and it worked,” he said. “To win a national championship, you have to be both good and lucky.”
Bishop singled to open the inning and pinch runner Abby Trahan tied the game when she scored on a wild pitch.
LSUE trailed 7-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning after Lady Bengal defense held the Lady Bobcats forcing a double play and a ground-out to snuff an offensive threat.
The Lady Bobcats grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first and Jones increased its lead to 3-0 in the top of the second frame.
LSUE closed the gap to 3-2 in the bottom of the third when Gasca walked and Skains followed with a towering home run.
LSUE scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth frame to retake a 4-3 lead, begun when Angelle doubled and scored on a hit by Doucet.
Doucet scored on a double by Gasca to help the Lady Bengals regain the momentum and a slim one-run lead.
Jones County rallied for three runs in the top of the fifth to grab a 6-4 advantage, sparked by a home run by Brittany Baty.
Skains blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth to help LSUE close the gap to 6-5.
Jones County moved ahead 7-5 with a run in the top of the sixth inning, but Smith reached on an error in the bottom of the frame and scored on a single to center by Wilson to close the gap to a single run.
Vidallier earned the win for LSUE as she went three innings, giving up one run, two hits, and walking one.
Lady Bengal starter Leonards threw four innings, surrendering six earned runs, 10 hits with one strikeout and two walks.
“That was a challenging tournament,” Lee said. “We had three one run ball games out of our five. That team just refused to surrender.
“It was a world series I will always remember,” he said.
Skains was named MVP and Offensive Player of the Tournament as she finished the tournament going 8-for-15 with eight runs scored, nine RBI and six home runs – hitting long balls in five of the six LSUE games.
It was her second MVP honors including a strong performance in the 2016 world series.
Leonards was named Most Outstanding Pitcher for the second year in a row.
“There’s only been one LSUE pitcher who has won back-to-back championships,” Lee said.
“The centerpiece of that team was Abigail Leonards,” he said. “She wasn’t a flame thrower or have great numbers, but she was such a great competitor and winner.
“The whole team was full confidence but it all started with her – she was a pitcher I would want in crunch time.”
Smith and Wilson also both repeated on the all tournament team, joined by Angelle.
The Lady Bengal sophomores finished their LSUE careers with a combined 111-19 record.
Skains and Henderson both earned first team All-American honors as part of the 2017 team that finished 53-11 including a perfect 19-0 home record.