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Bengals win second title in 2008

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a 12-story series celebrating LSUE’s baseball and softball national championships.

By Tom Dodge
Sports Editor
The Bengals won their first-ever baseball NJCAA Division II national championship in 2006, but were eliminated from the 2007 Region 23 tournament after two straight losses.
The Bengals opened the 2008 Region 23 tournament with wins over Itawamba Community College (9-0) and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (12-4) before a 4-3 late night loss to Pearl River Community College.
LSUE regrouped with victories over Meridian Community College (19-11) and Pearl River (12-9) to win the Region 23 title and advance to the World Series.
“We were down 8-0 it looked like our season was over,” LSUE head baseball coach Jeff Willis said of the must-win game. “But we come back and actually run-ruled Meridian.
“We played until 2 a.m. in the loss to Pearl River, got four hours sleep and after beating Meridian we had to face Pearl River on their home field.
“That game was tremendous as it went back-and-forth,” the coach said. “We were the only team from out of state in the tournament so everyone was cheering against us except our Bengal fans.
“We had a four-run lead going into the eighth inning and with the bases loaded Alex McCollum hangs a change-up and the guy hits a grand slam to tie the game.
“But our sophomore guys were going up and down the bench saying we’re not going to end our season right here.”
Delta Cleary got a big hit and drove in a couple of runs and then designated hitter Tyler Slocum (also the team’s closer) gets hit by a pitch.
“He gets on base and tells our first base coach – he just hit the wrong guy.”
When he got to the mound, Slocum then sealed the win with two strikeouts and a ground out.
“That team played 27 innings in less than 24 hours,” Willis said. “That spurred them to the national tournament and run the gauntlet of those games there.
“Our toughest game was the first game against Des Moines Area Community College – a 7-4 win,” the coach said.
Three home runs in the first inning was all LSU Eunice needed to make an early statement against Des Moines.
LSUE wasted no time with Boomer Blanchard and Kellen Bozeman crushing solo homers followed by a Perry Smith two-run shot.
“Boomer’s lead off home run really helped set the tone for that tournament,” Willis said.
The Bengals added a run in the fifth and two in the eighth thanks to a Cleary 2-RBI single.
Des Moines tried to rally with four runs in the ninth inning before Josh Bailey closed the door getting the final two outs.
Ryan Boudreaux went 8.1 innings striking out 12 batters while scattering those four runs off seven hits and two walks.
“Ryan pitched a gem that game, which helped us start the tournament strong with the win,” Willis said.
It was an offensive display against Elgin Community College as LSU Eunice survived for 14-12 victory.
The two teams combined for 30 hits on the evening.
The Bengals spotted Elgin a quick eight run lead through three runs before LSUE rallied.
LSUE plated six runs in the fourth thanks in large part to a three-run Nate Peterson home run and a Boomer Blanchard long ball.
The offense continued to roll in the seventh inning when Delta Cleary hit a triple and then scored on an errant throw. LSUE took an 11-10 lead after scoring five in the frame.
After two more Elgin runs in the top of the eighth, the Bengals used a Brady Bourque sacrifice fly and Chase Blanchard’s go-ahead 2-RBI triple to take the lead for good.
Boomer Blanchard, Nate Peterson and Chase Blanchard each drove in three runs on the night for a Bengals unit that smacked 16 hits as a squad.
After those first two close games LSUE then run-ruled the next two games beginning with a 13-3 win over top-ranked Lenoir Community College to advance to the World Series finals.
The game took two days to finish as steady rains hammered the greater Memphis area.
Lenoir struck for the first two runs of the game before LSUE put up a four-spot in its opening at-bat.
The Bengals capitalized on a Matt Creel RBI, a Lenoir error that produced a run, a Slocum RBI and a Bozeman squeeze to take the early edge.
Bozeman drove in two more runs in the second followed by a Boomer Blanchard RBI single to make it 7-3 in the fourth inning before the rains came.
The next day, LSUE exploded out the gates. Perry Smith’s 2-RBI triple was followed by Nate Person’s two-run home to give LSUE an 11-3 lead.
The Bengals finished the romp with a Bozeman solo home run in the sixth inning and Chase Blanchard’s walk-off RBI single.
Cory Lopez and Josh Bailey split the pitching duties over the two days allowing just three runs on three hits while striking out seven and issuing six walks.
The Bengals captured the program’s second national championship with a 17-5 win over Lenoir.
Most Valuable Player Perry Smith went a perfect 4-for-4 with five RBI and two runs scored in the championship game.
LSUE trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the second but the Bengals exploded from there piecing together a pair of three-run innings and a five-run fourth frame.
Matt Creel began the big fourth inning with a 2-RBI triple that was followed by Bozeman’s RBI double.
Smith’s 2-RBI double was followed by a catcher interference call to cap off the six runs.
Boomer Blanchard’s fifth-inning solo home run to left field, Perry Smith’s RBI double in the sixth and a RBI double from Brady Bourque helped push the LSUE advantage to 14-4.
The Bengals added three more runs in the seventh,Smith’s RBI sacrifice fly and a 2-RBI single from Bourque.
Smith, Bourque, Boomer Blanchard and Tyler Slocum all notched multiple hits as the Bengals scored 17 runs on 16 hits in the title game.
Ryan Boudreaux notched his second World Series win with a complete game.
Boudreaux gave up five runs off 10 hits while striking out five batters and issuing one walk.
“Perry Smith was named the MVP,” the coach said. “He batted at the bottom of our line-up and was an everyday player for us – but he had quite a tournament.”
Smith went 7-for-12 with 10 RBI in four games at the tournament.
“Based on what type of individual he was, he deserved for that to happen for him.”The Bengals went 52-12 in 2008 en route to their second title.

UP NEXT: LSUE’s 2010 baseball national championship revisited.

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