Lady Bengals celebrate national title
CLINTON, Mississippi – Her second-inning grand slam helped LSU Eunice earn the 2019 NJCAA DII softball championship with a 10-5 win over Phoenix College.
Kelci Bodin was proud of her accomplishments of being named the tournament MVP, but she was thrilled for her team mates as the Lady Bengals captured the sixth title in program history.
“I am so proud for my team and everything we accomplished this season.”
Bodin finished 5-16 in the national tournament with eight RBI, two home runs, two doubles and a triple.
“I was confident in regionals and that was what really set it off,” Bodin said. “I knew I had to keep producing coming into the national tournament. I felt comfortable the whole time.”
Andy Lee was named the Coach of the Year as LSUE has won three championships in the last four seasons.
LSU Eunice adds to its collection of championship hardware – the program earned national titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017.
The Bengals’ six national championships trail only Phoenix’s eight titles for most among all NJCAA DII programs.
Jensen Howell landed Pitcher of the Tournament recognition as she pitched in all five LSUE games of the tournament including a complete game win over Phoenix in the semifinals.
She gave up 12 hits, three walks and one run with 21 strikeouts.
“I was relaxed knowing no matter what my team has my back,” Howell said. “I didn’t freak out in the big moments.
“I wanted to be in the circle and get the job done,” she said.
Sophomore Heather Zumo was also vital part of the series as she finished with 17 strikeouts, four walks and allowed 6 runs and 10 over 13.2 innings pitched.
“We have a lot of trust with each other,” Zumo said of how well the pitching staff worked together. “I didn’t matter who got the start, we were in it together.”
LSU Eunice outscored its opponents 27-9 in the national tournament including wins over Hagerstown (3-2), Johnson County (5-0), Highland (7-1) along with the two wins over Phoenix.
Madison Monson hit a two-run home run to score Bodin in the top of the first, but Phoenix responded to force a 2-2 tie.
A six-run second-inning for LSUE in the title game, highlighted by Bodin's 11th home run of the season and second of the tournament proved crucial to the win.
Leading 8-5 through two innings of action, LSU Eunice tacked on a run in both the top half of the fourth and fifth innings for a pair of insurance runs.
Higgingbotham singled in Monson in the fourth, while LeLe Martinez doubled and scored on a hit by Lexi Jo DeBarege in the top of the fifth frame to push LSUE ahead, 10-5.
The bullpen duo of Lauren Parson and Howell combined for 5.2 innings of shutout relief work that held off any chance of a Phoenix rally down the stretch.
Along with Bodin and Howell's MVP performances, sophomore Madison Monson belted three home runs and drove in seven to earn a spot on the All-Tournament team.
“I will always have this memory of winning the title with my teammates,” Monson said. “It is something to cherish. I am thrilled to be part of the sixth championship.”
Kirkwood's London Jackson was named the Offensive Player of the Tournament after going 9-16 at the plate with four home runs and nine RBI.
Des Moines Area (IA) claimed third place at the national tournament for the second consecutive season.
The second-seeded Bears were handed a loss to Phoenix in the quarterfinal round, but made a run through the consolation bracket before falling once again to Phoenix. The Bears placed four on the All-Tournament team - Avery Guy, Ally Pickering, Mia Ruther, and Josie Swafford. Jackson finished the season on a 10-game hitting streak for the Eagles
Phoenix, eight-time NJCAA champions, finished as runners-up for the second consecutive season. Prior to Saturday's championship loss, the Bears had allowed just six runs in its first four contests.
Phoenix was led by freshman catcher Sydnee Smith who was awarded the Defensive Player of the Tournament award. Brianna Hardy, Hannah Krosky, and Smith were All-Tournament selections for the Bears.