Page Turner: 10th inning home run sends LSUS to World Series

THRILL OF VICTORY:  The LSUS Pilots celebrate their walk-off win Thursday at home sending them to the NAIA World Series. 

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

For almost 10 innings, LSUS senior Jaylin Turner didn’t do a whole lot in Thursday’s deciding game of the Shreveport Regional against Loyola (New Orleans). Basically, he just cheered for his teammates and maybe waved a towel or two.

And then he grabbed a bat and all that changed.

With one swing, Turner created one of the greatest moments in the Pilots’ athletic history.

Called on to pinch hit with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, the left-hander launched a ball well over the fence in right field to give LSUS a 9-7 win over the Wolf Pack at Pilot Field.

Greatest home run Turner has ever hit? “By far,” the 6-5 Georgia native said.

But it shouldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise. After all, Turner hit one in the seventh inning Wednesday in a game LSUS had to win in order to advance to Thursday’s regional-deciding contest.

“My teammates had been playing their behinds off all day,” Turner said. “If I hit it out, fine. If I don’t, I just needed to get on base. I was just trying to get something going.”

Instead of getting something going, he got something ending.

It was a nerve-racking game that was part of a nerve-racking week for LSUS, which came in as one of the top-ranked teams in the country but had to win four straight games after losing Monday’s opener (also to Loyola) to advance to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.

Turner’s home run came with two strikes. He might not have even had the chance if JJ Flores had not been hit by a pitch with two outs.

“To be honest with you, he (Turner) gets better the deeper he gets in the count,” said LSUS coach Brad Neffendorf. “He’s got really big power. That’s kind of what he does. He hit it out and we walked it off.”

It was a sudden end of a tense game throughout, one that saw the score tied three times in the late innings and featured multiple pitchers working on one day’s rest, two momentum-turning home runs – that corresponded with two major-league bat flips – and multiple ejections of coaches and fans.

Having played four games in three days, Neffendorf didn’t really have much of a pitching plan, other than to start Kevin Miranda and take it from there. It was obvious almost from the start that Miranda didn’t have his usual stuff, but that was to be expected since he was pitching on only one day’s rest. The most telling sign? He had walked only nine batters all year and walked one in the first and two more in the second. However, he did set the school record for strikeouts in the first inning.

After Loyola scored two in the first on back-to-back RBI singles, the Wolf Pack came right back with two more, scoring on a fumbled suicide bunt and an RBI single to center.

That marked the end of the day for Miranda and brought on Bobby Vath, another starter on short rest. Vath did a great job holding Loyola in check while the Pilots slowly overcame leaving men on base.

Allbry Major hit two homers, including one in the seventh that gave LSUS a 7-5 lead. But Loyola’s Cameron Trosclair matched him with his own two-run homer to tie the score again in the eighth, eventually sending it into extra innings.

Pilots reliever Brad White (8-0) denied any future threats by retiring all six batters he faced in the ninth and 10th innings.

Then Turner stepped into the batter’s box.

“It’s tough, but you have to have grit and determination,” he said. “If you want your boys to win, you got to come in and do the job.”

It’s the second straight year for the Pilots to reach the World Series and their fifth overall appearance.

“I’ve never been to Idaho,” Turner said. “It’s going to be one heck of a ride.”

It already has been.

Photos by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL


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A lot of baseball, and a lot of heart

About the only thing missing was the 1 o’clock-in-the-morning starting game time and the hand-written bracket that looked like a step-ladder.

Otherwise, the Shreveport Regional of the 2022 NAIA baseball tournament had all the appearances of a 1980s weekend softball tournament. Double elimination, but if you lose early in the event, the deck is stacked against you. The only favorable option is to just keep playing and playing and playing.

And playing, which is what happened Thursday at Pilot Field, where LSUS finally got its collective head to sea level after threatening to drown all week.

Once it got to a game where there were no more options for either team, the Pilots felt like they were on even terms.

And they were actually on more even terms than many realize. This would be the fifth game in four days for LSUS, having to work its way through the loser’s bracket to get to the final matchup with Loyola (New Orleans).

But this was also Loyola’s fifth game in four days, since the Wolf Pack did not have the opening round bye that the Pilots did on Monday.

Just put it this way – it’s a lot of baseball for both teams.

You would have thought that the winner of this game would be the team less worn out than the other one. Sure, the pitching staffs were a little used up, but what was most impressive is how both teams took gut punches and responded.

LSUS coach Brad Neffendorf wasn’t about to go down without at least giving the ball to his two best pitchers – Kevin Miranda and Bobby Vath – who had combined for almost half of the team’s 50 wins.

“We just needed somebody to start it,” Nefferdorf said of Miranda. “And Vath kind of has a bullpen mentality on the mound.”

Loyola got ahead 4-0 but before the game could get away from them, the Pilots posted two runs with two outs on a bloop single to right and a wild pitch.

Not exactly a highlight video, but 4-2 was a whole lot better than 4-0.

The first of two home runs by Allbry Major tied it in the fourth, but Loyola came back to take the lead before LSUS came back again to tie it in the bottom of the sixth.

That led to two-run homers by both teams to keep it tied.

That’s responding with it all on the line. Neither team was going to lay down.

Neffendorf wasn’t surprised in the least because he’d seen it before.

On April 20, LSUS was down 5-3 to Southwestern Assemblies of God University going into the bottom of the ninth when pinch hitter Zyon Avery hit a two-out, two-run home run to send it into extra innings. The Pilots went on to win in 10 innings.

Thursday, a two-run home run by a pinch hitter (Jaylin Turner) with two outs won the game. Sound familiar?

And how about this? Turner was pinch hitting for … Zyon Avery.

“If we hadn’t gone through a game like that (in April), I don’t know,” Neffendorf said. “We’ve gone through a little bit of everything in the last few weeks. We just kept battling.”

Asked what won it for the Pilots, Neffendorf didn’t hesitate.

“It’s all about the players,” he added. “They’ve been resilient the whole year. What credit don’t they deserve?”


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Centenary faces LaGrange College in first round of DIII championship

PRIMEAUX PERFORMANCE: Centenary pitcher Parker Primeaux and the Gents are in LaGrange, Georgia for the first round of the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship.

JOURNAL STAFF

Centenary is on the road this weekend in Georgia to face LaGrange College in the first game of its best-of-five series in the 2022 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship today at Cleaveland Field in Williamson Stadium.

The series begins today with a doubleheader between the Gents (27-16) and Panthers (37-6) at Noon Eastern time. The series continues Saturday with game three at noon Eastern and if necessary, game four will start 45 minutes following game three. If a game five is necessary, it will be played Sunday at noon Eastern time.

Centenary received an automatic bid to the championship after winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Championship. It is the Gents second NCAA national tournament after making their first appearance in 2017.

LaGrange claimed its fifth straight USA South Athletic Conference title to make its sixth overall appearance. It is the first time a LaGrange College athletic team has hosted a NCAA event.

The national tournament field is made up of 60 teams playing in 14 four-team regions and two two-team regions. The 16 region winners advance to the Super Regionals.

Photo courtesy of Centenary


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Page, Tigers overwhelm UAPB; LSU, ULM roll while NSU, Tech tumble

DOMINANT, AGAIN: Shemar Page continues to overwhelm SWAC opponents, blanking UAPB through seven innings Thursday as Grambling won on the road.

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PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Grambling’s baseball team may have only a slight chance to overcome Southern and Prairie View to win the Western Division of the Southwestern Athletic Conference this weekend, but it’s a better chance than UAPB had to overcome Shemar Page Thursday afternoon.

The Tigers’ ace dominated the Golden Lions, striking out 11 in eight innings while giving up just four hits and one run as Grambling drubbed UAPB 11-3 at Torii Hunter Complex.

Page (8-4) walked none and carried a shutout into the eighth inning as he raised his season strikeout total to 135, nearing the school record of 149.

Grambling (23-29, 18-10) stacked up 18 hits as John Garcia homered, doubled twice and drove in four runs against the Golden Lions (13-34-1, 9-19).

CHARLOTTE 11, LOUISIANA TECH 3: The 49ers (35-18, 17-11) scored five runs in the fourth inning before making an out, and steadily pulled away in the Conference USA series opener. Tech (36-18, 18-10) got an early two-run round-tripper by Jorge Corona and a solo shot from Taylor Young.

Charlotte, which has lost just one of its last 12 C-USA games, got a seven-inning relief outing from Spencer Giesting, who fanned eight Bulldogs.

Young singled in the ninth to break the school record with 280 career hits.

NICHOLLS 7, NORTHWESTERN STATE 6: The Demons got two home runs by catcher Austin Kirkpatrick, but failed to pad a 5-2 lead and fell in the opening round of the Southland Conference Tournament at Lake Charles.

NSU (25-28) loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but Nicholls reliever Chase Gearing stopped the threat and quieted the Demons while the Colonels (26-23) scored the next five runs. Northwestern drew within a run in the eighth on Kirkpatrick’s second homer, then had the go-ahead run on in the ninth with two out but a groundout ended it.

The Demons face Incarnate Word at 1 today in an elimination round game.

LSU 13, VANDERBILT 2: A six-run second inning put the Tigers in charge in Nashville. Centerfielder Dylan Crews drove in four runs and second baseman Cade Doughty blasted two homers at Hawkins Field.

LSU (35-18, 15-13 SEC) hit five home runs to increase its season total to 100. Vandy (35-17, 14-14) could not get going against Tigers’ right-hander Ma’Khail Hilliard (6-1) as he worked 5.1 innings and limited the Commodores to two runs – one earned – on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts.

Crews was 4-for-4 with a three-run homer, a double and four RBI

ULM 16, ARKANSAS STATE 9: The Warhawks (17-34-1, 7-20-1) cracked five home runs and rolled up eight runs in the fourth inning to take command in the Sun Belt Conference series opener at Monroe. Michelle Artzberger’s grand slam capped the big inning against ASU (11-36, 5-22).


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SPOTLIGHT: Steele Netterville is double trouble

SWEET SWING: Byrd High alumnus Steele Netterville has refined his batting stroke, denting outfield walls and the Louisiana Tech record book.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Louisiana Tech rightfielder and three-hole hitter Steele Netterville is a bright dude.

For the third straight year, Netterville was last week named First Team Academic All-District by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

His GPA is 3.93. (In baseball terminology, that’s like hitting .995)

A fifth-year senior, he graduated with a degree in biology and is studying for his second degree in kinesiology and health sciences. He was accepted into medical school in May, but the school held the spot open so the Byrd High School product could return to Tech for his final year of baseball eligibility.

So grade-wise, he can’t even spell “B.”

But hitting a baseball? That’s a different kind of test.

Organic Chemistry was hard. But hey, he still made an A.

“Hitting is harder,” he said, “by a long, long, long shot.”

“I would never say I’ve figured it out,” said Netterville, who’s hitting .311 with 62 RBI, 13 homers and 13 doubles: his 60 career doubles is a program record. “As soon as you think you’ve got hitting figured out, you get your teeth kicked in.”

He hit only .253 as a sophomore — but he still led the Bulldogs with 26 extra base hits, tied for homers with seven, and was third on the team in RBI.

Not satisfied, he did what he does. He studied. And as the old saying goes, when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear; former Northwestern State and Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard became Tech’s hitting coach before Netterville’s third season.

Lots of pitching machine sliders in the dirt. Lots of film. Lots of just talking about hitting. About making pitchers get the ball up. Just those two and baseball. Time and practice.

“You’d think that, righty on righty, slider would be his weakness,” teammate and righthanded pitcher Greg Martinez said. “And it was. But after pitching against him the last couple years, I can say that it’s not anymore. He’s learned to stay away from those (sliders out of the zone). His timing’s better. And he was already pretty much geared for the fastball.”

Netterville and his teammates, 36-17 overall, 18-9 and two games out of first behind Southern Miss, head into a three-game series today to complete the regular season against Charlotte, 34-18, 16-11 and the hottest team in the league, 11-1 in its last four conference series.

The CUSA Tournament begins next Wednesday in Hattiesburg, Miss. And Netterville likes his team’s chances, for reasons no one but those on the team would fully understand.

“I like us because of how much this team has gone though, dating back to the tornado (in April 2019 that destroyed Tech’s home field),” he said. “The newer guys on the team have heard about it. And this year we’ve got the same number of wins as last year (when Tech hosted a NCAA Regional), but it seems like none of them have been easy. We’ve been super resilient. We’ve been knocked down on the mat, and every time we’ve gotten up.”


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Pilots recover, reach homefield championship game today at 11

MAKING THE PLAYS: After opening the Shreveport Bracket with a loss, LSUS has fought back to make today’s championship game.

JOURNAL STAFF

The bats woke up Wednesday, and LSUS rolled away from the brink of disaster to the edge of an NAIA World Series berth.

The Pilots scored 30 runs in two lopsided, do-or-cry wins in the Shreveport Bracket of the NAIA Opening Round baseball tournament, dispatching Lyon and dusting up Loyola.

Wins of 14-6 (Lyon) and 16-2 (previously-unbeaten Loyola) earned LSUS a one-game, winner-takes-off-to-Idaho contest against the Wolf Pack today at 11 at Pilots Field.

A berth in next week’s World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, is on the line today.

The Pilots (50-6) stumbled out of the batters’ box on the regional’s opening day, falling 7-4 Monday evening to Loyola (36-23), but blasted away Wednesday afternoon.

LSUS, the top seed in the bracket and ranked No. 4 nationally, will square off against a Loyola club that made all the right moves to shock their hosts Monday night.

The Pilots now have a three-game win streak after dropping two conference tournament games last week and the regional opener Monday night. LSUS scored a relatively pedestrian 17 runs in the skid, recording only six hits and four runs in the loss to Loyola.

Tuesday in the elimination round, the Pilots didn’t pound it around the park, notching only five hits, but they got timely, big hits, and didn’t chase bad pitches, drawing 11 walks. A five-run inning put them on the way to a 10-2 victory over the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and into Wednesday’s action.

Despite the final margins, neither Wednesday win was a cakewalk until big innings late. LSUS rang up eight runs in the eighth inning to erase a Lyon lead and take command. Against Loyola, the Pilots were nursing a 3-1 edge when they exploded for 10 runs in the top of the seventh.

Fittingly, the first tally came from a player whose defensive brilliance had just preserved the lead. Rightfielder Carlos Pineyro ran down a two-out fly ball on the warning track in the right-center gap with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning, then a few minutes later with Pilots filling bases, was hit by a pitch to force in the first run. Julian Flores immediately blasted a grand slam and LSUS was in control, 8-1.

In Monday’s loss, LSUS made three errors. The Pilots are error-free since. While posting 40 runs, they’ve allowed only 10 in the three wins.

Those results appear to be a resounding signal that the boys are back.

Doubts, admitted coach Brad Neffendorf, were creeping around the Pilots. After a 47-3 regular season, following Monday’s upset, they were one loss away from a crushing collapse.

“We struggled in the conference tournament and in the first game this week,” he said. “Our hitting tailed off in that stretch, but we got back on track against USAO and it’s carried over. It’s the look and feel of what we’ve been this year.

“I’m not sure if it was confidence. Maybe they got to a point, I could be wrong, of questioning it a little bit. The morale after the USAO game has come back, and it’s carried over very well. Offensively we’ve put up some runs and we’ve pitched really well at times, made big pitches in big moments, and that was a big piece for us in the last two days. We’ve kept the game where it needed to be, and then our bats broke it open.

“We’re a team that has responded to challenges well this year, and obviously we have after that first game. We’ve got nine tough innings left (today),” he said.

Navigating them as they have all season will reward the Pilots with their second World Series appearance.

Photo courtesy LSUS Athletics


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Demons open Southland tourney as other leagues finish regular season

SLC SAVVY:  Former player Bobby Barbier, in his sixth season as Northwestern State’s head coach, is hoping his Demons can win their second Southland Conference Tournament under his guidance. NSU opens play this afternoon in Lake Charles.

JOURNAL SPORTS

LAKE CHARLES – A new format for the Southland Conference Baseball Tournament awaits Northwestern State on Thursday.

The venue, however, will be familiar one.

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Demons travel to Joe Miller Ballpark on McNeese’s campus, this time to start bracket play in a two-week-long conference tournament. The fifth-seeded Demons (25-27) face No. 4 seed Nicholls (25-23) in the opening game of the Lake Charles bracket of the tournament at 1 p.m.

The winners of the four-team brackets (the other pod is in Hammond, hosted by Southeastern Louisiana) will meet May 26-28 at the home of the best remaining seed to determine the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. McNeese won the regular season crown in a wild scramble and SLU was second, earning the home field advantages.

Tournament games can be seen on ESPN+. Both Northwestern and Nicholls finished 12-12 in conference games. The Colonels won the regular-season series 2-1 April 14-16.

The location is a plus for coach Bobby Barbier’s Demons, who won two of three high-scoring games at McNeese from May 6-8.

“It’s good for us, being familiar with the field,” Barbier said. “Sometimes, when you go to a place you’ve seen, you’re comfortable. You’ve seen how the ball flies. For our pitchers, those turf mounds can be tough. They’ve been on them. I think (playing there) can be an advantage for us.”

Perhaps no group is looking forward to a return trip to Lake Charles more than the Demon offense.

Northwestern State homered seven times in three games against the Cowboys, part of a season in which the Demons have already tied their high-water mark for home runs in the six-year Barbier era with 50. Beginning with their May 6 win against the Cowboys, the Demons hit 15 home runs in their final eight regular-season games, including two Tuesday night at LSU.

“Any of these eight teams can come out with a championship,” said Barbier. “We had six teams in contention for the league title the last weekend of the season. The team that plays most freely and easy and gets after it for a weekend gives themselves an opportunity to move forward.”

LOUISIANA TECH:  After a home sweep over Western Kentucky last weekend, Tech has risen in the Conference USA standings to second place, trailing Southern Miss by two games and in front of UTSA and Middle Tennessee by just one game. Beginning today in Charlotte, they’ll meet another hot team.

The Bulldogs (36-17, 18-9 C-USA) outscored WKU 34-8 in three games. Charlotte (34-18, 16-11) has won seven of its last eight, including an 8-3 win Tuesday at South Carolina.  The 49ers are 11-1 in their last four league series.

The series, with ESPN+ coverage, has 5 p.m. (CST) first pitches today and Friday with a noon getaway game Saturday in the final regular-season outings for both squads. Tech is currently a strong contender for an at-large NCAA Tournament invitation.

Taylor Young, Tech’s senior shortstop, leads the nation in runs scored with 75 and sits just eight runs shy of the program season record he set just one year ago. Sophomore center fielder Cole McConnell is eighth in the nation with 68 RBI.

LSU:  The Tigers (34-18, 14-13 SEC) are in Nashville to wrap up the Southeastern Conference regular season at Vanderbilt (35-16, 14-13). LSU is considered unlikely to host a regional unless the Tigers can win the series and make some noise in next week’s SEC Tournament, but there’s no doubt NCAA Tournament play is ahead.

This evening’s 7 o’clock game is on ESPN2. Friday’s 6 p.m. contest is on SEC Network+ and the series finale Saturday at 1 is on SEC Network.

GRAMBLING: The Tigers (22-27, 17-10) could get to 20 Southwestern Athletic Conference wins this weekend with a sweep at UAPB (13-33-1, 9-18), but it’s very unlikely that will be enough to win the Western Division crown. Southern (18-9 in the SWAC) plays pathetic Alcorn State (2-25).

In Pine Bluff, the opener is at 3 today. Friday’s game starts at 2 and Saturday’s finale is at 1.

ULM: The Warhawks host Arkansas State in a battle that could give the winner a spot in the 10-team Sun Belt Conference Tournament. ULM (16-34-1, 6-20-1) is in 11th place and Arkansas State (11-35, 5-21) is a game back. Games start at 6 tonight and Friday, and at 1 on Saturday in Monroe.

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State


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TODAY’S SCHEDULE: LSUS, NSU in postseason action

Thursday

College Baseball

Grambling State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 3 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Charlotte, 5 p.m.
Arkansas State at ULM, 6 p.m.
LSU at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.

NAIA National Tournament

Loyola vs. LSUS, 11 a.m.

Southland Conference Tournament at Lake Charles

Northwestern State vs. Nicholls State, 1 p.m.

Friday

College Baseball

Grambling State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 2 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Charlotte, 5 p.m.
Arkansas State at ULM, 6 p.m.
LSU at Vanderbilt, 6 p.m.

Southland Conference Tournament at Lake Charles

Northwestern State vs. McNeese or UIW

NCAA Division III National Tournament

Centenary at LaGrange (Ga.), 10 a.m.

Note: The above schedule is subject to cancellations or reschedule


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Pilots rebound for win, play today at 11 in NAIA’s Shreveport Bracket

BACK ON TRACK: LSUS halted a three-game losing skid Tuesday night with error-free defense and a two-run home run by third baseman Julian Flores as part of the winning formula in an elimination-round victory in the Shreveport Bracket of the NAIA Opening Round tournament.

JOURNAL SPORTS

A five-run third inning put LSUS in control, then good pitching and improved defense kept the Pilots there Tuesday night in a 10-2 win over Science and Arts of Oklahoma to cap the second day of the Shreveport Bracket in the NAIA Opening Round baseball tournament at Pilots Field.

LSUS drew 11 walks and benefitted by five errors from Science and Arts (36-15). Kevin Miranda improved to 12-1 on the mound for the Pilots while fanning five in his five innings of work.

The Pilots used a bases-loaded balk, a sacrifice fly by Allbrey Major and a run-scoring error to get untracked in the third inning, and capped their outburst with a two-run homer by Julian Flores.

LSUS (48-6) halted a three-game losing skid that included a stunning 7-4 loss Monday night to Loyola of New Orleans in the Pilots’ first tournament game. The Pilots were error-free against the Drovers Tuesday after making three errors in Monday’s defeat.

Today at 11 a.m., LSUS resumes its effort to battle out of the elimination round and back into contention for an NAIA World Series berth next week, meeting Lyon.

Lyon was a first-day winner but fell 9-5 Tuesday afternoon to Loyola.

Science and Arts survived its first challenge Tuesday with a 13-2 triumph that sent Fisher home.

Photo courtesy LSUS Athletics


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Tech’s Murphy challenging at NCAA Normal golf regional

BULLDOG MAKING BIRDIES: Sam Murphy is tied for eighth going into the final round of the NCAA Norman Regional, with a chance to advance to the NCAA Nationals.

JOURNAL SPORTS

 

NORMAN, Okla. – Louisiana Tech’s Sam Murphy shot in the red for a second consecutive day, firing a 70 (-2) in round two of the NCAA Norman Regional on Tuesday to move up 10 spots on the leaderboard into a tied for eighth at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.

Murphy, who is now at -3 for the tournament, putting himself in position to qualify for the NCAA Nationals.  To do so, he needs to finish as the top overall individual on a team that does not finish in the top five. He is the only Bulldog in the regional field.

“He hit it really well today,” said Louisiana Tech coach Matt Terry. “There was an error here and there, but overall he had a great round.  He putted the ball really well.  The bounce-back eagle after the double and then the two bounce-back birdies after bogeys were great.  That shows a lot of maturity in his game and the way he is playing.  I look for more of the same tomorrow.  He just needs to keep giving himself plenty of chances and see what the day brings.”

Said Murphy:  “I hit the ball really well … made a couple simple mistakes that are easy to fix.  I rolled the ball really well and executed some quality golf shots.  The conditions were tough.  Starting out they were not too bad, but about halfway through the round the wind got up and made the round difficult to play.  It completely changed the whole golf course from yesterday.  For tomorrow, I hope to give myself as many opportunities as possible.”

After a birdie on the par-3 second hole, Murphy ran into trouble at No. 4, making a double bogey. 

However, the fifth-year senior responded as he did much of the day.  On the longest hole of the course, the 627-yard Par 5 No. 5, he got to within 13 yards after his second shot.  He followed that up by knocking in his chip for eagle to back to -1.

Murphy started the back nine with a bang by sinking back-to-back birdies, including his longest putt of the day, a 25-footer for birdie on the difficult 445-yard par 4 No. 11.

Photo by KANE MCGUIRE, Louisiana Tech


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TODAY’S SCHEDULE: LSUS to play Lyon in NAIA tournament

Wednesday

College Baseball

NAIA National Tournament

Game 7 – Lyon vs. LSUS, 11 a.m.
Game 8 – Loyola vs. Game 7 winner, 2:30 p.m.

Thursday

College Baseball

Grambling State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 3 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Charlotte, 5 p.m.
Arkansas State at ULM, 6 p.m.
LSU at Vanderbilt, 7 p.m.

NAIA National Tournament

Game 9 – Loyola vs. LSUS, 11 a.m. (if LSUS wins twice on Wednesday a game 9 would be necessary to determine who moves on to Super Regionals).

Southland Conference Tournament at Lake Charles

Northwestern State vs. Nicholls State

Note: The above schedule is subject to cancellations or reschedule


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SPOTLIGHT: Surging Diamond Gents Georgia-bound for NCAA D3 postseason

DUAL THREAT: Centenary senior Preston Ludwick has more than 200 hits, 150 RBI and 150 strikeouts on the mound.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

You’ll get a headache if you try to figure out the NCAA Division III baseball tournament bracket and, to be honest, Centenary coach Mike Diaz isn’t exactly sure himself. “And I’m on the regional committee,” he said.

But he knows all he needs to know, at least for right now.

The Gents (27-16) are headed to LaGrange (Ga.) College to take on the Panthers (37-6) in a best-of-five series beginning Friday.

Best of five?

Well, there are 60 teams in the DIII bracket and Centenary is one of them. There are 14 four-team regionals and Centenary is NOT in one of those. So in the other two “regionals,” a best-of-five series is being played.

How’s that headache right about now?

“It’s odd,” Diaz said rather sheepishly. “I think a lot of coaches are shaking their heads at it. A lot of people are asking why don’t they just take four more at-large teams and do what everybody else does.”

But no matter what the format, the Gents will have to deal with a formidable opponent in LaGrange, which won its fifth straight USA South Conference tournament and is ranked No. 4 in the country.

However, the Panthers will be having to deal with the tragedy of losing two freshmen pitchers who were killed in a west Georgia car accident Saturday, just hours after the conference championship.

The unusual format will have a single game on Friday, two games on Saturday and, if necessary, two games on Sunday.

“I think at any level a five-game series is tough in three days,” Diaz said. “I’d rather see it over four days so you could cycle back some arms.”

The pitching formula for the Gents shouldn’t be too tough the figure out. Freshman left-hander Tyler Herrera has been the Friday starter for most of the year and is 7-0 with a 1.34 ERA, which ranks No. 9 in the country. Herrera was named as both the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year.

Junior Parker Primeaux would be a likely starter on Saturday, but he’s been used as a starter and a reliever. “The kid has a rubber arm,” Diaz said. “We have closed with him on Friday night and started him on Saturday. We’ve utilized him in a lot of different ways.”

Primeaux is 9-5 with a 3.72 ERA and has two complete games to go with three saves. He leads the team in innings (75.1) and strikeouts (75).

Senior Preston Ludwick, who also plays first base, would likely be the other starter. Last year he was SCAC Pitcher of the Year and leads the conference in hitting this season. In his career, he has more than 200 hits, 150 RBI and 150 strikeouts on the mound.

After Centenary stunned nationally-ranked Trinity to win the conference title, momentum would seem to be on the side of the Gents. But Diaz downplays that it might be much of a factor.

“I think we are 21-8 in the last 29. Is it momentum?” Diaz said. “I don’t know. I just think it’s because we are playing well. I think momentum is a little overrated. You have to be fundamentally sound. You have to have some clutch guys in the postseason, some guys who aren’t afraid of the moment. That’s more important than momentum.”

For the Gents, success has boiled down to a simple formula.

“The key for us is to play good defense and get a solid pitching performance,” Diaz said. “If we do that, I like our chances against anybody. That’s been the formula for us. Most of the games we have lost, we have played bad defense. Two errors turn into four or five errors. If our starters get us into the fifth or sixth inning, our record is really good. That’s probably a cliché, but it really is true.”

Centenary had 10 players make the All-SCAC team. The Gents are one of the top offensive teams in the country. “Other than Ludwig, who has been our most consistent guy at the plate, sometimes it’s the top of the lineup and sometimes it’s the bottom,” Diaz said. “But honestly, it’s been the entire team.”

The Gents have won 11 of their last 13 games and are in the tournament for the first time since 2017. LaGrange is a regular tournament participant.

“They are going to be really good,” Diaz said. “I know we’ve got good pitching and three arms that we really, really like and we can swing it too. We will see, I guess.”

Photo courtesy of Red River Athletic Conference


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Pilots stunned in NAIA opening round, play tonight at 6

JOURNAL SPORTS

A team that had lost only three times all season has now lost three straight games.

LSUS was stunned at home Monday night, 7-4 by Loyola (New Orleans) in the opening round of the Shreveport Bracket of the NAIA Baseball National Championship. A couple of unearned runs for the Wolf Pack helped the rally for the upset as the visitors did all their scoring in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

The fourth-ranked Pilots (47-6) dropped into the elimination side of the bracket and play a do-or-die contest at 6 this evening against either Fisher or Science and Arts (Okla.), the other Monday losers. LSUS dropped its only two games last week in the conference tournament, but was assured of a high seed in the NAIA playoffs. Now, the Pilots are playing for their postseason lives.

Loyola improves to 35-22 with the win, and will play Lyon College at 2:30 today. Loyola outhit LSUS 7-6 and made just one error.

The Pilots jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the second when Ryan Major led off with a single and scored on an error. Trevor Burkhart’s base hit brought home Allbry Major, whose grounder was misplayed to allow the first run.

In the fifth inning, the Pilots added another run on a Ryan Major single.

The Wolf Pack got on the board in the sixth on a two-run double by Luke Clement that cut the Pilot lead to 3-2. LSUS got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Allbry Major.

But Loyola took advantage of two walks, two errors and a wild pitch in the seventh to tie it at 4-4, and missed a chance by leaving the bases loaded when Clement was struck out by Alex Gonzales.

The Wolf Pack moved on top in a three-run eighth. Cameron Trosclair doubled in a run and scored the final one when he stole home, sandwiched around an error that allowed Loyola’s second tally.


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Region tournament loss ends BPCC softball season

JOURNAL STAFF

Bossier Parish Community College had another very successful softball season come to a screeching halt after losing in the Region XIV Conference Tournament Monday to Paris 5-2.

Paris used a four-run fourth inning and a solo home run in the seventh in building a 5-0 lead before BPCC could get on the board.

Haylee Ladner and Kennedy Cox were both 2-for-3 with a double and figured in the final two runs of the season for the Lady Cavaliers who finished at 42-12.

BPCC lost in the region tournament last season after a record breaking 46-8 overall mark.


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Saving the best for last: Northwestern visits LSU tonight

HOPING TO BLOOM:  Dawson Flowers will get the start tonight for NSU as the Demons visit LSU to close their regular season.

JOURNAL SPORTS

BATON ROUGE – Although the Southland Conference Tournament is dead ahead, the Northwestern State baseball team plays its highest-profile game tonight.

The Demons visit LSU in NSU’s final regular-season  game at 6:30 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field. The contest will stream live on SEC Network Plus. Thursday, Northwestern opens the revamped Southland Conference Tournament in Lake Charles with a 1 p.m. matchup against Nicholls.

With Southland membership down to eight, the conference is conducting two four-team, double-elimination brackets this week at Lake Charles (regular-season champion McNeese hosting) and Hammond (home of second-place Southeastern Louisiana). The two surviving teams meet next weekend in a three-game series to determine the league’s NCAA Tournament representative.

Considering that high stakes competition less than 48 hours away from tonight’s first pitch, it’s virtually certain the Demons won’t use any of their top pitchers. They will hope to get the bats moving, and they definitely embrace the opportunity against LSU – a team that Northwestern has topped in the last two meetings.

“It’s always a good trip,” sixth-year Demons’ head coach Bobby Barbier said. “It’s a good trip to get better. It’s a good trip to play against a really good team. When you play those really good teams, the ball moves a little bit faster whether it’s on the ground or from the mound. It’s an opportunity to do that and, hopefully, get better going into the (conference) tournament.”

The Demons (25-26) have won their past two games against LSU (33-18) for the first time since taking two straight April 2-3, 1996.

In addition to facing a Power Five opponent for the first time since playing Nebraska on March 5, the game serves as a homecoming of sorts for several Demons, including senior center fielder Larson Fontenot and senior shortstop Cam Sibley.

Fontenot has been part of the back-to-back wins against the Tigers and was a member of the 2018 Demon team that was within two outs of eliminating the Tigers from the Corvallis Regional.

A season ago, Fontenot went 4-for-5 with a stolen base and an RBI as the Demons built a six-run lead in an eventual 7-3 win that came 28 miles from Fontenot’s hometown of St. Amant.

“It’s really nice going over there and playing at Alex Box, where you grew up watching them play,” Fontenot said. “It’s a good feeling to go play against them.”

Fontenot is not the only Demon from the Baton Rouge area who will play a short distance from home. Fellow senior shortstop Cam Sibley played his high school career at Dutchtown High School in suburban Geismar while outfielder Reese Lipoma is another St. Amant product. Pitcher Thomas Sotile (University High, Baton Rouge) and freshman infielder AJ Bailey (Zachary) also hail from greater Baton Rouge.

Sibley had to wait almost two years into his NSU career to face LSU after the Panola College transfer saw his first Demon season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Demons’ 2020 date against LSU was set for April 28 before the pandemic shuttered the season 16 games into it.

“It’s fun to go down and play them,” said Sibley, one of eight seniors and nine Demons who will play their final regular-season game Tuesday. “They have such a great facility. The atmosphere is unmatched. It’s fun to go down there and show our skills against those guys. We just have to go down and play our game.”

Northwestern State will send right-hander Dawson Flowers (0-2, 4.88) to the mound while LSU, still ranked as high as No. 20 in three national polls despite being swept by Ole Miss over the weekend, didn’t designate its starting pitcher Monday.

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State


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Pilots prepared to host NAIA regional, aiming to fly away to Idaho

PILOTS READY FOR TAKEOFF: The No. 4-ranked LSUS Pilots open NAIA Tournament regional play at home this evening counting on a powerful lineup including Zyon Avery.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

This week, the LSUS baseball team will walk across the street to play in a NAIA postseason tournament. But the goal is to be flying across the country in a couple of weeks to play in another postseason tournament.

The Pilots, ranked No. 4 in the country, are the host team as Shreveport is one of 10 sites in the NAIA regional rounds that get underway today.

The Shreveport Bracket also has Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Lyon College, Loyola (New Orleans), and Fisher College. The first game for the Pilots will be at 6 p.m. today when they take on the winner of the Loyola-Fisher game, which opens the tournament at 11 a.m.

The winner of this regional will advance to the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.

Given the gaudy record of LSUS (47-5 overall and 31-2 in the Red River Athletic Conference), it is not a great surprise the Pilots are hosting the tournament, scheduled to last four days.

“The way the NAIA selects (the sites) is based on how your team does during the year, and do you have the facilities to host an event like this,” said Lucas Morgan, the LSUS director of athletics. “Fortunately we are in a good spot to do that. We have the support of the university and the success of the program definitely helped. It kind of felt like a no-brainer that we would host.”

But it is still significant.

“It’s huge for the program and huge for the city,” said Morgan, “when you can bring in four teams from outside the region. It’s going to be high-level baseball. Every team here is a tournament quality team.”

It’s also an unplanned economic boost for the local tourism industry, made possible in part by backing from the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission. LSUS also hosted regional competition in 2019 and 2005.

For a team that’s 47-5, it seems strange to say that they are coming into the tournament on a bit of a down note. The Pilots lost both games in the RRAC conference tournament last year – their only two-game losing streak of the year.

But LSUS has won 25 out of 26 games at home this season, so you’ve got to like their chances, especially with pitchers Bobby Vath (12-0, 2.31) and Kevin Miranda (11-1, 1.85).

Try this stat nugget on for size – LSUS has a team ERA of 3.56. Its opponents have an ERA of 12.03 when facing LSUS.

“We’ve had a lot of meetings to prepare for this,” Morgan said. “We are just making sure all the teams coming in are taken care of, (so) we have a member of our staff assigned to each team to serve as a personal liaison. Maybe it’s about a bus or a place to find food. We are really trying to make this as good of an experience as we can for all the teams. We want them to have the national tournament experience.”

There will be a crawfish boil at Pilot Field today, a Military Appreciation Day, with Little League teams being part of the starting lineups as well as expanded food options.

“We’ve really tried to think outside the box,” Morgan said. “We want to give these teams a little bit of a Louisiana experience, but also make sure they go home with memories that will last for a long time.”

Photo courtesy LSUS Athletics


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NAIA Opening Round Shreveport Bracket schedule at LSUS

JOURNAL STAFF

LSUS is the host team for the opening round of the NAIA National Baseball Tournament. The Sports Commission of the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau and LSUS worked together to get the tournament located in Shreveport for the third time.

LSUS is the No. 1 team in the local opening round of games and has a 47-5 record. The rest of the teams in the tournament with their tournament (opening round) ranking and record are: No. 2 University of Science and Arts (Oklahoma), 35-13, No. 3 Lyon College (Arkansas) 36-20, No. 4 Loyola of New Orleans 33-22 and No. 5 Fisher (Massachusetts) 29-28.

Here is the schedule of games to be played at Pilot Field:

MONDAY

Gm. 1 – No. 4 Loyola (La.) vs. No. 5 Fisher (Mass.), 11 a.m.
Gm. 2 – No. 2 USAO (Okla.) vs. No.3 Lyon (Ark.), 2:30 p.m.
Gm. 3 – No. 1 LSUS vs. Gm. 1 winner, 6 p.m.

TUESDAY

Gm. 4 – Gm. 1 loser vs. Gm. 2 loser, 11 a.m.
Gm. 5 – Gm. 3 winner vs. Gm. 2 winner, 2:30 p.m.
Gm. 6 – Gm. 3 loser vs. Gm. 4 winner, 6 p.m.

WEDNESDAY

Gm. 7 – Gm. loser 5 vs. Gm. 6 winner, 11 a.m.
Gm. 8 – Gm. 5 winner vs. Gm. 7 winner, 2:30 p.m.

THURSDAY

Gm. 9 – If necessary, 11 a.m.


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Centenary to learn destination in DIII National Tournament today

JOURNAL STAFF

Centenary’s baseball team will find out its destination and opponents in the upcoming NCAA Division III Championships today when the selection show airs at 11 a.m. streamed live on NCAA.com.

The Diamond Gents (27-16) received an automatic bid after winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship last weekend. Centenary won the SCAC title for the first time since 2017 after finishing runner-up in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

The format for the NCAA Division III Tournament is 16 regionals with 60 total teams. There are 14 four-team regionals, two two-team best of five sites playing a double-elimination format from May 19-22.


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Weekend Sports Scoreboard

Friday

Pro Basketball (The Basketball League)

Shreveport Mavericks 140, Sugar Land Imperials 118

College Baseball

Grambling State 5, Texas Southern 2
Louisiana Tech 16, Western Kentucky 4
Northwestern State 14, New Orleans 11
South Alabama 12, ULM 4
Ole Miss at LSU

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament at San Jacinto

BPCC 5, Coastal Bend 4

C-USA Tournament at Denton, Texas

North Texas 11, Louisiana Tech 1
Western Kentucky 5, Louisiana Tech 1

Saturday

Pro Basketball (The Basketball League)

Shreveport Mavericks 109, Beaumont Panthers 101

College Baseball

New Orleans 11, Northwestern State 4
Louisiana Tech 7, Western Kentucky 2
Ole Miss 11, LSU 1
Texas Southern 24, Grambling State 4
South Alabama 3, ULM 1

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament at San Jacinto

BPCC 5, Navarro 2

High School Baseball

LHSAA Division IV Playoffs

Calvary 12, Ouachita Christian 4, 8 innings

Sunday

College Baseball

Texas Southern 16, Grambling State 8
Louisiana Tech 11, Western Kentucky 2
South Alabama 4, ULM 2
Ole Miss 8, LSU 5

College Softball

Region XIV Tournament at San Jacinto

San Jacinto 3, BPCC 1


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Complete effort leads Tech to sweep; NSU, GSU, LSU, ULM drop series

SWAN SONG: Louisiana Tech’s seniors were out front to lead the postgame rendition of the school song Sunday after the Bulldogs finished a sweep of Western Kentucky.

JOURNAL STAFF

RUSTON – Louisiana Tech couldn’t have asked for a more complete effort in its sweep of Western Kentucky in the final regular season home series.

The Bulldogs (36-17, 18-9 Conference USA) closed out the weekend with an 11-2 win on Sunday helped by a seven-run third inning.

Jackson Lancaster belted a three-run home run to cap the massive inning, and the pitching staff coasted from there.

Starter Jarrett Whorff (5-6) allowed two runs in five innings backed by four scoreless relief innings from Byrd High product Jonathan Fincher.

“I am really proud of our guys — we really needed to sweep this series and we did,” said Louisiana Tech coach Lane Burroughs. “I think our fans need to be commended the way they recognized (seniors) Taylor Young and Steele Netterville (also a Byrd product) in their last at-bats.

“You couldn’t have scripted it any better – with Whorff and Fincher to pitch the way they did, and all the older guys got to play this weekend.”

The Bulldogs vault into second place, two games behind leader Southern Miss (38-14, 20-7 CUSA) with one series at Charlotte (32-18, 15-11) remaining.

Tech paved the way for older players to see the field on senior weekend by flooding the basepaths.

The Bulldogs tallied 17 hits each in wins of 16-4 and 7-2 to open the series. Tech outscored WKU by a 34-8 margin.

Four Bulldogs recorded three hits each Friday, including Jorge Corona (four RBI, one home run) and Cole McConnel (second grand slam of the season). Adarius Myers and Wade Elliott each added two RBI to go with their three hits.

In Saturday’s win, Jackson Lancaster highlighted a three-run first inning with a two-RBI single, which proved enough for the pitchers.

Ryan Jennings (5-1) allowed just one run on three hits in 7 1-3 innings.

Young scored nine runs this weekend and leads the nation with 75 this season.

GRAMBLING: After ace pitcher Shemar Page puzzled Texas Southern in a 5-2 win Friday, the TSU bats solved the GSU arms as Texas Southern slugged its way to a series win.

Texas Southern (26-22, 17-10 SWAC) scored a total of 40 runs in the last two games in victories of 24-4 and 16-8.

GSU (22-29, 17-10 SWAC) still has a shot at a SWAC West Division title with Arkansas-Pine Bluff (7-18 SWAC) in the series finale this coming weekend. Grambling is 3-1 against the Golden Lions this season.

NORTHWESTERN STATE: The Demons answered one big deficit against New Orleans, stealing away the middle game Friday night by climbing out of a 7-0 hole to win 14-11.

But faced with another deficit Saturday (three runs) in the finale, NSU couldn’t pull off another comeback as UNO sealed the series with an 11-4 victory.

In the series opener Thursday, now-No. 3 seed UNO put its comeback caps on with three seventh-inning runs in a 6-4 win.

NSU (25-26, 12-12 Southland Conference) will be the No. 5 seed in its portion of the league tournament, facing No. 4 seed Nicholls on Thursday in Lake Charles after a Tuesday visit to LSU.

LSU: The No. 20 Tigers (33-18, 14-13) were swept at home for the first time in more than a calendar year as Ole Miss finished the series win with an 8-5 win Sunday.

A four-run fifth inning gave the Rebels (31-19, 13-14 SEC) all they needed Sunday, holding on with a strikeout of Tyler McManus to end the game as the tying run at the plate.

Ole Miss took early leads in the first two games as well, punching LSU in 5-3 and 11-1 fashion to start the series.

Vanderbilt was the last team to sweep LSU in Baton Rouge, doing in the first weekend of April in 2021, and this weekend was the Rebels first-ever sweep of LSU in Baton Rouge.

ULM: The Warhawks suffered their third straight sweep in Sun Belt Conference play, the last on the road at South Alabama.

After a 12-4 loss in the opener in which the Jaguars (30-20, 16-11 SBC) erased a three-run ULM lead, the Warhawks (16-34-1, 6-20-1 SBC) scrapped in the last two, falling 3-1 and 4-2.

Photo by ERIC JONES, Louisiana Tech


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