Local products lead LSU-E to national title

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
The LSU-Eunice Lady Bengals celebrate winning their fourth national title in the past six years. Photo provided.

For the third time in four years, the LSU-Eunice Lady Bengals brought home the NJCAA Division II national championship, and Ascension stars played a huge part in their title run.

The Lady Bengals faced stiff competition during the postseason, but they found ways to win when they had their backs against the wall.

In the NJCAA Division II World Series in Clinton, Miss., top-ranked LSU-E had to get a walkoff single from Rebecca Skains in the bottom of the ninth to get past Labette Community College in the quarterfinals.

In the semifinals, more late-game heroics were needed, and they were supplied by a former parish standout.

Tied with their Region 23 foe Jones Country Junior College, former St. Amant Lady Gator Jordan Hartman blasted a walkoff two-run homer to punch the Lady Bengals’ ticket to the national title game.

Being a double-elimination tournament and heading into the final day undefeated, LSU-E had some margin for error. It was needed. The Lady Bengals took a lop-sided 9-0 loss on the chin in game one.

However, when they needed a victory the most, they delivered.

In their game-two showdown with Jones County, the Lady Bengals fell down, 1-0. Though, they quickly answered back in the top of the second. An RBI single by Hartman and an RBI double by former St. Amant star Jaci Lavigne gave LSU-E a 2-1 advantage.

Home runs by Skains and Molly Wilson pushed the lead to 6-1, but Jones Country responded with three scores to trim the deficit to 6-4.

From there, it was all LSU-E. The Lady Bengals erupted for five runs in the top of the sixth.

The barrage all began with a single by Lavigne and a double by former St. Amant star Maddie Edmonston. Both players were brought home with a three-run homer by Skains.

The Lady Bengals eventually tacked on three more scores to seal a 12-4 victory and hoist yet another national championship trophy. It was the program’s fourth national title in six years.

“This team persevered all year. They improved all year and battled to get their way all the way to the championship,” head coach Andy Lee said. “They wanted this title so bad after not making it last year. I am so proud of them.”

Along with former Lady Gators Hartman, Lavigne and Edmonston, former Dutchtown star Hope Vezinat was also part of the Lady Bengal championship squad.

Of the Ascension players, Edmonston had the biggest season in 2016.

She was one of only three Lady Bengals to make the All-Region 23 team. She finished the regular season with 89 hits, 76 runs, 19 doubles, five home runs, 38 RBIs, 18 walks and 39 stolen bases—which ranked her seventh in the nation.

Both Edmonston and Lavigne have signed with Southeastern for 2017. They’ll join Dutchtown senior pitcher Ali McCoy—who signed with the Lady Lions prior to the softball season.