Lady Bengals sophomores leave a legacy
By Tom Dodge
She was part of two of the Lady Bengals’ six national championships and it’s a memory Abby Trahan will carry for a lifetime.
In the 2017 title game, Trahan was a pinch runner and scored on a wild pitch to force a 7-7 tie before Emily Henderson advanced on a squeeze bunt by Haley Godeau to seal the 8-7 win over Jones County Junior College.
This season was a little less dramatic but still memorable as Trahan and the Lady Bengals earned a 10-5 win over Phoenix College for the championship.
“The first championship was very special because I had never experienced something that big.
“I had won some high school state championships at Hackberry, but the national championship was so much bigger.
“That group of sophomores were coming off their championship the year before and they led the way for the rest of us.”
Trahan injured her shoulder on that slide against Jones County and sat out the 2018 season where the Lady Bengals finished fourth in the nation.
“This year’s team, I was one of the older ones and I had a different role as I had experience of being at the tournament.
“This group of girls was very close-knit and every one was selfless and we all wanted what was best for the team. I think that makes this team so special.
“It was one of the best feelings in the world,” Trahan said of the celebration after the championships were won.
“Your heart’s racing and you are overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions.
“We were able to do it with your best friends by your side – after all the hard work paid off we reached our goal.”
LSUE head softball coach Andy Lee said this sophomore group added themselves to the Lady Bengal legacy.
“Abby played her part of being a leader as she practiced hard every day,” LSUE head coach Andy Lee said. “Her shoulder never rebounded from like it used to be, but she was a vital part of our team.
“She had some good at-bats and made the most of her opportunity when she was in the game.
“She led by example and the other girls followed.”
Lee said this season was the first time he had three sophomore transfers join the program with Sarah Tate, Jensen Howell and Hannah Smith.
“It was a mixture of new players and old players but they really accepted each other, worked hard and accomplished the goals that they had set.
“I am very proud of what they accomplished,” Lee said of his team. “Every championship is very special and they are a little different.
“This team battled through some adversity and they accomplshed their ultimate goal so I am proud of them.”
Tate played at Pine Prairie High and transferred to LSUE from Baton Rouge Community College.
“I am super proud of my team and what we accomplished,” Tate said. “We all worked together to win – not just one or two people.”
Tate said her high school experience helped build her foundation as a college softball player.
“It helped me prepare to be a part of a winning program,” she said.
“Coming into LSUE it was the same mindset. I was part of a winning program and I wanted to continue to be a part of a winning program.”
“Sarah was a big addition to the team and I knew she would be after I saw her play against us when she was at BRCC,” Lee said. “I’m glad she joined us and her experience as a sophomore really showed.”
Smith (Catholic High - New Iberia) transferred from University of South Alabama, while Howell (Holy Savior Menard) moved over from Louisiana Tech.
“Hannah was probably the best defensive third baseman I’ve ever had – not to take anything away from any of the others,”Lee said. “Defensively she kept us in a lot of ball games; she was a fierce competitor.
“Others saw how hard she worked and they picked up their level too.”
Lee said the sophomores can be very proud of their accomplishments with an 101-26 record over the past two seasons and capped it off with the national title.
“They were a special group who worked well together and got hot at the end of the season.”
The Lady Bengals finished the season with a 17-game win streak – including esight straight in the playoffs.
“I was worried at the end of the season as we had 10 games cancelled on us and we had too much off-time,” Lee said. “They were tired of practicing and inter-squad games and they kind of shut things down.
No. 1 LSUE swept the Region 23 tournament with a 7-2 sin over Pearl River Community College and then two victories over Itawamba Community College (5-2, 7-3) and then opened the national tournamet with a 3-2 win over No. 16 seed Hagerstown Community College.
“They had a private team meeting after the near loss to the 16-seed,” Lee said. “From that point on, they played well.
LSUE closed the tourament with wins over Johnson County Community College (5-0), Highland Community College (7-1) and then earned a 2-1 win over Phoenix College in the semifinals.
“It was a total team effort and I was proud of what they all accomplished.”
Lee was named the NJCAA Div. II Coach of the Year as LSUE has won three championships in the last four seasons.
With the win, LSUE added to its collection of championship hardware – the program also earned national titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017.
The Lady Bengals’ six national championships trail only Phoenix’s eight titles for most among all NJCAA DII programs.