LSUS 2022 baseball: Anything but disappointing

PUMPED UP PILOTS: After Jaylin Turner’s home run sent the LSUS baseball team to the NAIA World Series, the Pilots were elated, and relieved.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

The lasting image of the 2022 LSUS baseball season will be Jaylin Turner standing in the left-handed batter’s box and watching his pinch-hit home run disappear over the right field fence at Pilot Field on May 19.

It meant the Pilots were going to the NAIA World Series for the second straight year.

It showed that they could come back from an opening-game loss in the regional that they hosted and still find a way to win.

It signified that anybody at any time could step out of the LSUS dugout and do the job.

And though nobody dared to say it, Turner’s home run kept the word “disappointing” from appearing in any account of the 2022 season.

It’s been a week since the Pilots lost in the World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. No, they didn’t win it all, but they had a shot at it, and they made a run at it in Big Sky country.

The regular season was just too good – too dominant – that anything short of World Series would have been … well … you know the word.

Pilots’ coach Brad Neffendorf talked about how his team had to “be the hunted instead of the hunter” as the team rolled to win after win.

“They’ve done a really good job with that,” he said. “They’ve been a group that’s been even-keeled with the approach.”

Well, maybe not all the time. The wild scene on the field after Turner crossed home plate would suggest otherwise.

That was also at a point in the season in which things had nearly gone sideways … and at the worst possible time.

Every team goes through an ebb and flow throughout the season, but what happened to LSUS in May was somewhat confounding.

The Pilots finished the regular season 47-3 – one of the best records in NAIA history – as they entered the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament. What seemed as if it might be a formality was anything but.

The team that lost less than one game per month suddenly lost two in two days, blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning in the final game.

Back at home for the Shreveport Regional, the misery continued as the Pilots lost the opening game. A team that had lost three times in 50 games had now lost three times in three games.

There was only one path out – win four straight games. They won the first three by a combined score of 40-8 but the championship game against Loyola (New Orleans) went to the 10th inning before Turner’s home run ended it.

A goal of advancing further at the World Series than in 2021 was realized when the Pilots won two games and finished fourth. In the post-season poll, the 53-8 Pilots finished as the No. 4 team in the nation.

“Probably half of our roster was here last year and I think that’s a big reason why we have accomplished what we have,” Nefferdorf said.

Pitcher Kevin Miranda made the NAIA All-America second team and shortstop Austin McNicholas and pitcher Bobby Vath were honorable mention selections.

Contact J.J. at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL