ENID, Oklahoma – LSU Eunice baseball survived a marathon 14 inning classic with Western Oklahoma State to score a thrilling 5-4 victory to clinch the program’s 7th NJCAA Division II National Championship on Saturday at David Allen Memorial Ballpark. The Bengals scored a critical ninth inning run with two outs to set stage for one of the most dramatic victories under Jeff Willis.
The game was a winner take all in a best-of-three series in the NJCAA Division II World Series.
The Bengal Magic happened in the most improbable of ways. Hunter Tabb swung on a strike three breaking ball to start the 14th inning that went loose. An errant throw to first allowed Tabb to go all the way to third and Western Oklahoma’s first wild pitch of the tournament allowed Tabb to score the game winner.
LSUE would load the bases later in the frame but could not cross another insurance run, a theme for the night for both teams. The Bengals and Pioneers combined to leave 33 runners on base.
Everything was going LSU Eunice’s way early, racing out to a 3-0 lead through four innings. The Bengals used a similar recipe to their Game Two win, scoring their first runs on two errors and a sacrifice fly.
Luke McGibboney kept the Pioneers at bay, allowing just two runners to reach second base in the first four frames. Western would capitalize on Bengal miscues in the fifth inning as a sacrifice fly allowed two runs to score as the throw home sailed wide then the throw from the backside was also off the mark. The Pioneers tied the game an inning later thanks to an RBI single.
McGibboney went 4.2 innings, with two unearned runs of five hits and a walk with three punch outs.
That would set the stage for a valiant performance from Jake Hammond. The captain went a career long 6.1 innings and 112 pitches, giving up one earned run while scattering five hits and five walks tying a career mark in strikeouts with nine.
Hammond would work in traffic throughout, getting out of two bases loaded jams.
The Pioneers would take their first lead of the game in the eighth, using a two out solo home run to take a 4-3 lead going into the ninth inning. LSUE forced extra innings as Jarrett McDonald snuck a two out ground ball through the first side to score Scott Jones. Hammond sat down the side in order to go to extras.
The Bengals would persevere through stressful frames, getting out of two bases loaded situations in extra innings. Brock Barthelemy relieved Hammond in the 12th inning, walking the first batter he faced before striking out the final out of the inning with the bases loaded.
Barthelemy (2-1) navigated traffic in the 13th before putting down the Pioneers in order to set off the dogpile on the mound.
Jack Merrifield led the LSUE offense with a 4-for-5 night with a walk and two runs scored while Peyton LeJeune and Jarrett McDonald had multi-hit nights in LSUE’s 12-hit output.
Jerry Couch was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher and Peyton LeJeune was named Most Outstanding Player. The duo was joined by Jack Merrifield and Hunter Tabb on the All-Tournament Team.
The Bengals secured their third consecutive 50-win season.
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