Parish trio wins national title at LSU-Eunice
In their time playing high-school baseball in Ascension Parish, Jacob Spell, Landon Clifton and Nick Bellina were all on teams that made sustained postseason runs and competed for championships.
Although, none of the three players were able to bask in the fervent glory of a title victory. That all changed last week.
Now playing collegiate baseball for LSU-Eunice, the Ascension trio was able to celebrate an undefeated run in the NJCAA Division-II World Series. This stretch of perfection culminated in the Bengals taking home the Division-II national championship.
To reach the championship series, LSU-Eunice had to go through hosting Northern Oklahoma College-Enid twice.
In the first game, the Bengals fell behind 3-0 early, but in the fourth inning, Hayden Mixon hit a grand slam that put LSU-Eunice ahead, 4-3. They eventually held on to win by a score of 10-6.
In the victory, Clifton pitched one inning of relief. He gave up no runs, and he struck out one batter.
After having a day off to rest in the winner’s bracket, the Bengals faced NOC-Enid once again in the semifinal game,
Again, the Jets took an early lead. They scored in the opening inning to go ahead, 1-0. From there, it was all LSU-Eunice.
The Bengals went on to score 10 unanswered runs in what became a 10-1 victory in seven innings.
The win pushed LSU-Eunice through to the championship series against two-time Division-II national champion Parkland College.
In game one, Parkland went ahead 2-1 in the top of the fourth inning, but LSU-Eunice responded in a big way.
Cameron Horton hit a three-run blast in the bottom of the frame to put the Bengals ahead 4-2. They never looked back.
LSU-Eunice ended up taking the game by a score of 9-5.
In the win, Spell made a relief appearance on the mound. He pitched two-thirds of an inning, surrendering two runs.
In game two, the Bengals jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but fueled by a Max Downs homer, Parkland rallied back to take a 3-2 advantage in the fifth inning.
The lead lasted until the eighth. There, a Koi Westbrook RBI single tied the game.
Then in the bottom of the ninth, Slate Fuller became a hero. He drilled a two-run walk-off home run to complete the series sweep and clinch LSU-Eunice’s sixth national championship.
In their first title run since 2015, the Bengals finished with a superb overall record of 57-6. They won 15 of their final 16 games.
As true freshmen, Spell, Clifton and Bellina all contributed to the Bengals’ special feat.
Spell, a St. Amant graduate, saw plenty of action this season as a relief pitcher. In all, he made 24 appearances and pitched more than 33 innings.
Spell struck out 27 batters and had the third-best ERA on the team at 1.89 (at least 20 innings pitched).
Clifton is a former District 6-1A MVP at Ascension Catholic. His skill-set carried over well to the collegiate level.
Clifton made 23 appearances this season. In more than 24 innings pitched, he struck out 31 batters and led the team with 11 saves.
Clifton had the second-best ERA of anyone that pitched at least 20 innings. His final ERA was a stellar 1.46.
Bellina was Clifton’s teammate at Ascension Catholic. In his senior year, he was named the Parish MVP.
In his freshman campaign at LSU-Eunice, Bellina started 15 games. He hit .200 with 16 RBIs and one home run.