Demons close out Athletics Social Tour with local stop

THE TOUR STOPS HERE: NSU alum and supporter Ted Roberts (left) visits with women’s basketball coach Anna Nimz (center) and new athletics director Kevin Bostian at Superior’s Steakhouse Thursday night.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

The Northwestern State Athletics Social Tour began two weeks ago and ended Thursday night at Superior’s Steakhouse. As new athletics director Kevin Bostian said, “This is the last one. We’re ending with a bang.”

The tour began in Alexandria two weeks ago, made stops in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, and Houston last week, and concluded with trips to Austin, Dallas, and Shreveport this week.

In addition to Bostian, the local stop included new men’s basketball coach Corey Gipson, third-year women’s basketball coach Anna Nimz, and associate head football coach De’Von Lockett.

Topics included improvements to Demons athletic facilities, NIL, the transfer portal, the upcoming basketball and football seasons, media coverage, and the Southland Conference.

The overriding theme, however, was the family atmosphere at a university located in a special city.

“The community supports the university and the university supports the community,” said Bostian. “This institution is blue-collar, hands in the dirt, grind it out.”

“My family loves being in Natchitoches,” said Gipson. “We’re very blessed to be in the situation we’re in.”

Nimz talked about being hired during Covid, accepting the position sight unseen, buying her house online, not knowing how to spell Natchitoches when she interviewed for the job, and the support she has received from the entire athletics department.

The audience of approximately 25 local Demons’ supporters got updates on a wide range of topics:

  • Upgraded facilities: $10 million for a new health performance center that will be five to six times larger than the existing facility and will include a new training room and rehab center; new turf on the football field with a new design in the end zones and new goal posts; new sod on the soccer field; redoing the court in Prather Coliseum; a new volleyball locker room; upgrading the men’s basketball locker room.
  • NIL: new rules that say universities can broker deals. “We lost a lot of student athletes last year because of NIL,” said Bostian.
  • Transfer portal: “It’s here to stay,” said Bostian. “Kids leave, but it can also be good.”
  • Football season opener: The Demons open the season at Montana over the Labor Day Weekend. To give the players who may have never flown (“and none of them have probably been to Montana,” according to Bostian), the team will fly up on Thursday night and enjoy the sights before preparing for the game.
  • Media coverage: NSU sports will all be broadcast on ESPN+ starting in the fall.
  • Conference realignment: “I think the Southland Conference is stable now,” said Bostian. “Lamar is coming back. We’re right where we need to be. It’s the best situation for us. We’re a bus league. We don’t have to spend the money to fly everywhere.”

When Bostian asked for questions from the attendees, one supporter asked about the lack of local media coverage for NSU.

“There’s more local coverage coming,” said Gipson. “I can’t give any details right now, but we’re going to implement something that will have global input. Be patient. It’s coming.”

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD


SPOTLIGHT: When bulldogging ballcarriers at LSU, then taking down steers, Duhon was special

By RON HIGGINS, Written for the LSWA

Through the years, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductees have carved individual paths to greatness.

But few can claim the journey of Class of 2022 inductee Steve Duhon, a Louisiana private high school football phenom who traded tackling running backs in LSU’s Tiger Stadium for bulldogging steers.

In a 14½-year career, he won three Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association world championship steer wrestling titles, qualified for eight national finals and was elected to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2003.

Duhon will join 11 others in the LSHOF Class of 2022 next weekend, June 23-25 in Natchitoches, where he was briefly on the rodeo team at Northwestern State following his time at LSU. For participation opportunities and information on the induction festivities, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.

Duhon was raised as one of seven kids (one brother, five sisters) on his parents’ 44-acre spread with a 22-stall barn just outside Opelousas. It’s where his late dad Billy trained horses for 38 years that raced at Evangeline Downs then in Carencro, Delta Downs in Vinton and at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans. 

The family farm is where Steve began his lifelong love of horses and rodeo.

“I’ve always liked hands-on stuff,” said Duhon, 60, who now lives on his own farm acreage in Jasper, Texas. “I grew up and always dreamed about doing professional rodeo for a living.

“My idols were world champion steer wrestlers like Roy Duvall and Tom Ferguson. My favorite movie was a (1974) documentary called `The Great American Cowboy’ about the rivalry between veteran Larry Mahan and newcomer Phil Lyne battling all season for the National Finals Rodeo overall championship.”

While Duhon began steer wrestling when he was in the seventh grade – “I was already like 6 foot, 195 pounds,” he recalled – his size and toughness served him well in other sports.

“I really liked baseball,” Duhon said. “I played eighth grade and my freshman and sophomore years in high school. Then, I had a conflict with baseball and high school rodeo.

“The coaches said, ‘Choose one or the other.’  I chose rodeo.”

Jay Cormier never had a problem with Duhon’s affection for rodeo.

As head football coach for Belmont Academy, a then-tiny Class 2A independent high school in Opelousas, he didn’t care what Duhon did as long as he showed up for practices and games as a devastating two-way player who was a three-time all-state honoree and twice named Louisiana’s best defensive player.

Duhon’s stats as a high school senior in 1980 were almost mythical. He ran for 3,305 yards as a fullback and made 148 tackles as a linebacker. Word about his exploits began trickling to college recruiters, but somehow didn’t get to then-LSU head coach Jerry Stovall and his staff until it was almost too late.

Stovall, LSU’s Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1962 who coached the Tigers from 1980 to 1983, still has instant recall at age 80 when asked about Duhon.

“He’d already grown up wrestling steers, so you already knew he was a mean sucker,” Stovall said. “He paid attention to detail and he was a fairly respectable student of the game.

“But it was his ability to be tough and stay tough that caught everybody’s attention.”

Duhon wasn’t the least bit intimidated as an LSU freshman in 1981 stepping into a team of bigger, stronger veterans.

“I didn’t take nothing from nobody in practice,” Duhon said. “I hit people. One day when we were supposed to be going half-speed to avoid injury, I hit a receiver and knocked him down.

“The coaches and everybody got kind of hot. The receivers coach started getting on me. I told him, `This is my territory. When someone comes across here, he better look for me.’

“(Assistant coach) Bishop Harris jumps in and says loudly, `I told y’all THAT boy was CRAZY.’”

But it was the type of run-through-a-brick wall enthusiasm that earned Duhon playing time on special teams and as a backup linebacker in every game of a 3-7-1 season.

The only time he was awed was the season opener against No. 4 Bear Bryant-coached Alabama.

“When we came out of that little locker room door and into Tiger Stadium, I felt just like Tanner in Bad News Bears,” Duhon said. “I was standing there, looking up and all around. When I looked back down, the rest of the team was halfway to the bench. I was by myself. To hear that many people go wild was unreal.”

It didn’t take long for Duhon to get with the program. Later in that game won by the Crimson Tide 24-7, Duhon was on the punt coverage team when an Alabama returner came sailing up the sideline in front of the Crimson Tide bench.

“I clicked his heels right in front of Bear Bryant,” Duhon said of his fast, well-timed tackle. “I got up, looked at Bear Bryant, he looked at me and he just shook his head. I thought `That’s pretty neat.’”

Duhon finished the season with 19 tackles. But in April 1982 two weeks before the spring semester ended, his love of rodeo could not be denied any longer. He told Stovall he was quitting to pursue a professional rodeo career. He immediately began training for steer wrestling.

After three years of practicing during the week and competing along with his brother almost every weekend in amateur rodeos in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, Duhon decided to turn pro in May 1985 after the season had already started.

He finished 18th in the world and accomplished his goal of winning Rookie of the Year. In 1986, he won the first of his back-to-back world steer wrestling championships.

In those national finals, Duhon set a world record that stood alone for 15 years before it was tied. Riding a horse named Jimmy, he took a steer to the ground in three seconds.

“I knew it was fast,” Duhon said. “I didn’t look at the clock until I got back to the box and they announced it was a world record. I thought, `Maaannnn.’”

Duhon won $41,370 that day, the most pro money ever pocketed by a steer wrestler in the national finals. It boosted his 1986 earnings to a staggering $114,535, the largest amount of single-season money ever banked by a steer wrestler.

In his first six pro seasons, Duhon won nine of his 13 career rodeo event titles, the last one in 1990 shortly before he left the sport until 1992 to take care of his ailing father.

“I came home, took a job in an oil field working seven days on seven days off,” Duhon said. “I slacked on my (steer wrestling) practice.

“Daddy (who had heart problems) was confined to the house for a year. When he started feeling better, he said to me `What are you thinkin’ about?’ I said, `I’m thinkin’ of trying it again.’

“He went and bought 20 steers and me and him started practicing. He had high school kids come over Tuesdays and Thursdays to practice and he’d help them for nothing.”

Duhon returned full throttle to the pro circuit in 1992, finishing fourth in the world in ’92. He won his third and final world championship in ’93.

“A lot of people said I had gotten too old and said I was slippin’,” Duhon said. “I showed myself and everyone I still had it.”

Duhon avoided serious injuries in his career until he was sixth in the world in March 1995 and tore knee ligaments. Then, he had a 40,000-point lead in the steer wrestling standings in May 1998 when he again tore ligaments. He still finished fifth in the world.

“After that, I kinda slowed down,” he said. “I kept getting injuries. I’ve had both shoulders worked on as well as my back and a full replacement knee.”

He won one last steer wrestling event in 2000 at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, then decided he was done.

Three years later in November 2003, Duhon’s father, the man who taught him everything he knew about steer wrestling, passed away.

While his dad has been gone now for 19 years, it’s fascinating how Duhon has navigated the circle of life.

His oldest son Steven went on to play football and his younger son Dustin joined the rodeo team, both at small Texas colleges.

“It’s kinda my split personality – one played football and one rodeoed,” Duhon said with a laugh.

Like his dad, Duhon has transitioned into a rural life in which he raises cattle, trains and sells horses and most importantly hosts all and any kids who want to rodeo.

“I always have kids come over to practice or something,” he said. “My dad helped as many as he could as long as they were good kids. He didn’t charge them anything. So, I kind of carry on what he did.”

And if those young’uns pay close attention, they may hear some pearls of wisdom that Billy Duhon passed down to his son. There’s one that has served Steve well, all the way from his one-year LSU football pitstop to being honored in two Hall of Fames.

And it’s this:

“Never quit. If you go to do it, then do it. If you’ve set a goal, bear down, put your head down and don’t stop until you succeed.”

 Artwork by CHRIS BROWN, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame


New Demons athletic leadership hosting reception tonight in Shreveport

NEW FACES: New men’s basketball coach Corey Gipson and new athletics director Kevin Bostian head the group of Northwestern State athletic staff hosting a free social event tonight in Shreveport.

JOURNAL STAFF

The Northwestern State Athletics Social Tour will convene this evening from 6-8 at Superior’s Steakhouse, with the public welcome to attend and meet new athletics director Kevin Bostian and new men’s basketball coach Corey Gipson, among other Demons athletic staff.

Also featured will be third-year women’s basketball coach Anna Nimz and associate head football coach De’Von Lockett, a veteran staffer who was a receiver for the Demons’ 2001 FCS playoff team.

Bostian took over as AD on Feb. 7 and made his first major hire five weeks later, after the departure of longtime Demons’ basketball coach Mike McConathy. Gipson came in after 15 years as an assistant coach, the last five at Missouri State. He has completely revamped the NSU roster in the last three months.

The Social Tour has made the rounds in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Houston, Austin and last night in Dallas.. There is no admission fee and attire is casual.

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State


Burroughs waves off move, says he’s staying put at Tech 

PINE STRAW, NOT TUMBLEWEEDS: Louisiana Tech baseball coach Lane Burroughs has taken himself out of the mix for posts at Baylor, Kansas and Tulane, and says he’s rooted in Ruston. 

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Not so fast, my friends, Louisiana Tech baseball coach Lane Burroughs said Tuesday night.

Burroughs was reportedly a strong contender for the vacant head coaching post at Baylor, according to reputable national media reports, and was also said to be among four favorites at Kansas and in consideration at Tulane.

But in a Tweet sent shortly before 10 p.m. last night, he halted speculation he was outbound.

“This (train icon) ain’t stopping!!! Get on board or get off the track!!  #JYD23” – with the hashtag referring to “Junkyard Dogs ’23.”

Burroughs later confirmed to The Journal  he is staying put in Ruston and will return for his seventh season at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park next spring.

His commitment to Tech came after a flurry of speculation, peaking Tuesday afternoon, that he was a prime candidate at Baylor and on a short list at Kansas, and perhaps, Tulane.

Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill tweeted Tuesday afternoon that Burroughs was “emerging as the top target” for Baylor, with that report shared locally by Alex Anderson of KTBS TV in the station’s 6 p.m. newscast.

SI.com (Sports Illustrated) Baylor beat writer Connor Zimmerlee also wrote Tuesday that a two-week search seemed to be focusing on the Bulldogs’ coach, 205-111 (.649) in six seasons (since 2017) in Ruston.

D1Baseball.com managing editor and ESPN college baseball analyst Kendall Rogers reported Tuesday Burroughs was  “in the mix” in Baylor’s search but cited other, arguably stronger possibilities to replace Steve Rodriguez, who stepped down last month after going 197-145 in seven seasons. The Bears were just 18-30 in the Big 12 Conference in the last two seasons, failing to reach an NCAA Regional after three in a row from 2017-19.

KUSports.com reported Burroughs was in a “top tier” among four of the Jayhawks’ possible candidates for on-campus interviews. Burroughs was an assistant at Kansas State in 2008.

Burroughs has just guided Tech to its two best seasons this century, and arguably in the history of the program.  The Bulldogs have an 85-41 record in that span, posting a 42-20 mark in 2021 while fitting into national Top 25 rankings and approaching Top 10 status. Tech was awarded one of 16 NCAA Regional host bids but was upset by eventual College World Series semifinalist North Carolina State.

This spring, the Diamond Dogs went 43-21, won the Conference USA Tournament and played in the NCAA Austin Regional hosted by CWS qualifier Texas.

Burroughs has had nine straight winning seasons after picking up the pieces of a struggling Northwestern State program and going 16-40 in his first year. He went 97-73 afterward with his Demons posting three straight top three finishes in the Southland Conference and a 59-29 league mark in his last three seasons.

Tech hired him away from Northwestern following the 2016 season after four seasons as head coach. He had arrived as a young assistant coach at NSU after the 1997 season, hired in the summer by current Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, and was the only remaining staffer after Van Horn departed in December to become head coach at Nebraska. Burroughs was retained in January 1998 by newly-hired NSU coach John Cohen, who went on to great success as head coach at NSU, Kentucky and Mississippi State and is now athletic director at State. Burroughs was Cohen’s lead assistant coach in Starkville, helping the Bulldogs to within a game of the College World Series prior to taking the Demons’ head coaching job in June 2012.

Amid the circumstances, Burroughs uncharacteristically missed a planned Monroe sports talk show appearance Tuesday afternoon. He is slated to be a guest Thursday afternoon locally at 5:30 on the popular “SportsTalk with J.J. and Bonzai Ben” radio show on 1130 AM: The TIger.

Photo by TOM MORRIS, Louisiana Tech


Walter Mitty, meet Phil Miller: former Demon walk-on headed to Omaha (again)

STEERING HITTERS: Former Northwestern State infielder and coach Phil Miller (center), going over scouting reports with Texas players, has helped the Longhorns to another College World Series berth.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

If you don’t think it’s a long way from being a walk-on to coaching in the College World Series, Phil Miller would like to have a word.

When Texas opens play Friday in the CWS against Notre Dame, the former Northwestern State player and assistant coach will be in the first base coaching box for the Longhorns. It’s his third trip to Omaha with the Longhorns, on the heels of appearances in 2018 and last year.

And don’t think for a second that he doesn’t take a moment to appreciate where he is.

“There’s been a moment like that in almost every place I’ve been,” Miller says. “I remember when I first started coaching and I was making $5,000 a year and thinking, ‘This is unbelievable.’ I was on top of the world. As you move up and get to a better place, you just sort of take it all in. The job is the same, right? Working with players, developing relationships, that sort of thing never changes.

“I’m extremely blessed and fortunate,” Miller adds. “There’s a lot of timing involved. Yeah, I’m lucky to be where I’m at but at the same time, a lot of hard work has gone into it.”

When he finished his playing days at NSU in 2005, Miller wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.

“I had some undergraduate hours left and I wasn’t good enough to play at the next level,” he says. “Coach (Mitch Gaspard) allowed me to just stick around and bang some fungoes and throw some batting practice.”

After graduating, Miller did the whole business-world interview thing, but “it never really occurred to me that I was going to have to hang it up,” so he didn’t.

You can’t start any lower than volunteer coach, so that’s what Miller did at Northwestern in 2006, but then things started falling into place.

Three seasons at Sam Houston State, back to Northwestern for two, then a return to Sam Houston from 2012-14, where he worked with rookie head coach David Pierce. Miller went with Pierce to Tulane for the ’15 and ’16 seasons and when Pierce got one of college baseball’s plum head coaching jobs at Texas, Miller was invited along.

Ten years after not knowing what he was going to do after college and Phil Miller was now coaching at one of the most storied programs in all of college baseball.

All of this for a guy who wasn’t sure he’d even get the opportunity to play in college.

“His high school coach (University’s Burke Broussard) called and said he had a really tough kid who loved to play,” says Gaspard, now associate head coach at Louisiana Tech. “I told him that’s the kind of kid we were looking for. Phil was one of my favorites. He’s the ultimate grinder. Always trying to get better and a great teammate. A great guy to coach.”

Gaspard loves to tell a story about his former player. The Demons were playing Sam Houston State to win the Southland Conference title in 2005, Miller’s senior year. He got hit by a pitch late in the game but Gaspard had basically used up his bench.

Between innings, Miller, the Demons’ second baseman, told Gaspard “Coach, I’m pretty sure I broke my finger. I’m just telling you this just to let you know that if I have to make a throw to first, I’m not sure that I can. But I’ll do my best.’

“Well, there’s nobody else left,” Gaspard told him, “So good luck.”

With one out and a man on first in the ninth inning, naturally there was a ground ball to shortstop. “We’ve got to turn a double play to win the league,” Gaspard says. “It was a changeup, but he figured out a way to get that ball to first base. That shows what he meant to the team and the coaching staff.”

Miller and Gaspard got a chance to reunite when Tech played in the Austin Regional two weeks ago and there was a lot of pride for both.

“He’s one of my mentors,” Miller says of his former coach. “The way he does things, his personality, his relationship with players. Everybody who has played for him knows what a great guy he is. I made sure I got a picture with him when we played (at the Regional).”

“He’s just a worker,” Gaspard said of Miller. “You can give him anything whether it’s baseball-related or not and he is going to put forth a great effort. That’s just who he is as a person.”

Photo courtesy of Texas Athletics


Local ladies savor up-close involvement with Kelly’s LSU football program

TIGER TALK: New LSU football assistant Jamar Cain provided tremendous insight and lots of laughs for women attending Tiger coach Brian Kelly’s Golden Cleat Combine in Baton Rouge last week. 

By JERRY BYRD Jr., Journal Sports

When LSU head football coach Brian Kelly came to Shreveport this spring, he encouraged the women in attendance to attend his Golden Cleats Combine and help the Tigers raise money for breast cancer research. He didn’t have to twist Dr. Karen Peace’s arm. 

In football recruiting terminology, Peace was a blue-chip, five-star prospect as president of the LSU Caddo-Bossier Alumni Association and teacher recruiter for Caddo Parish Public Schools.

Being the president of the alumni association and possessing recruiting expertise, Peace had something else going for her. She had experience on her side after attending a similar event when the Tigers were under the direction of Les Miles.

Peace used her talents to recruit a camp companion, her friend Alli Walsh, who is the catering manager for Shreveport’s Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.

“She was unsure at first,” Peace said. “After I explained it to her, she had a better perspective. I told her she would be able to meet the coaches and players. Not only that, it was for a really good cause.”

Following the event last Tuesday and Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Walsh posted about the experience on Facebook. 

“I’m sore,” Walsh wrote. “My body hurts everywhere, but I had the time of my life. Thank you to my sweet friend for encouraging me to go.”

And Peace’s assessment of her Golden Cleat rookie?

“She did great,” Peace said. “She made some of the TAF (Tiger Athletic Foundation) videos with her silly self. She is so outgoing, she could talk to a goalpost.”

If Walsh really could talk to the goalpost, Peace would get her friend to tell it to move down a few feet. That was the hardest part of the camp for Peace.

“They make it look so easy on TV,” Peace said. 

 Not all of the Golden Cleat rookies performed as well as Walsh.

“You could tell that some didn’t realize there would be drills,” Peace laughed. “They were there more for the shopping and the tailgate party.”

Not Peace, who was assigned to a team led by new defensive line coach Jamar Cain, who comes to the bayou from Oklahoma where he served as the Sooners’ outside linebackers and defensive ends coach for the past two seasons. 

Cain, Peace believes, is able. 

“I like the fact that he didn’t dumb it down for us,” Peace said. “If there were women in there who didn’t know much about football, they were probably lost when he was explaining some of the terminology and techniques. He was very knowledgeable and very personable. I got the sense that he has great rapport with his players.” 

After the combine, if Cain needs to make a call to the skybox and tell Peace to come down and switch from a 3 technique to a 2 against Bama, she will be his guy…er, gal.

As far as the season goes, Peace cannot wait.

“I think if we can get past Florida State, the rest of the season will go pretty well,” Peace said. “The back half of the schedule is always tough with SEC powers, but I’m optimistic. Listening to Coach Kelly and the other coaches and the players, I’m excited.”

The 350 Golden Cleat Combine participants did get to hear from the LSU players, and in doing so Peace thinks there has been a positive change in the LSU Football Operations Building.

“You can tell from listening to them talk that there is a real chemistry there,” Peace said. “They are all working toward the same goal.”

Peace hopes she can recruit some more Golden Cleat Combine rookies in the future.

“If you love LSU and you love football, it’s a great experience to go to meet other women who share the same passion and learn some football at the same time.”

Photo courtesy LSU ATHLETICS


SPOTLIGHT: Low-key style, high-level results, and superior leadership among Williams’ trademarks

By PAUL LETLOW, Written for the LSWA

Kyle Williams was never one who craved attention.

When it came time to announce his college choice coming out of Ruston High School, the burly defensive lineman rated among the top defensive tackles in the nation let his family know first when he quietly gifted his mother an LSU sweatshirt on Christmas Eve.

“I wanted to make the right decision for myself and my family,” the young Williams said back in December 2001. “I wanted my friends and family to be able to see me play. It turned out that the place I was most comfortable was LSU.”

Unlike today’s frenzied recruiting news cycle, it actually took a few days for Williams’ decision to appear in a local newspaper — and even then, the blue-collar blue-chipper kept it low-key. That was Kyle Williams — then and now.

“It’s not my place to judge how people do or don’t do things,” Williams said. “But I can tell you that I felt like the people who poured the most into me and had the most impact on me, that’s who deserved to know. That’s who I thought I needed to share that news with; they needed to know about my plans and they deserved it. I didn’t need to make a big spectacle about it and I didn’t need any attention about it. I had gotten all the attention I needed, which was an opportunity to go play football.”

Williams certainly wasn’t seeking fame throughout a football career that took him from Ruston to LSU and eventually 13 seasons with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, yet his steady approach, quiet leadership and rugged production gained him much appreciation from fans of those teams. His body of work also impressed the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, which honored him as a first-ballot Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer for the Class of 2022.

The Induction Celebration is next weekend, June 23-25 in Natchitoches. Participation opportunities and information can be found at LaSportsHall.com or by calling 318-238-4255.

Williams is a proud Bearcat. And Tiger. And Bill.

“Honestly, to look back and to have played football as long as I did and to represent three places that have as rich a tradition and are football-oriented communities, who love their teams and love the people, there couldn’t have been any better places for me and what I value and think is important,” Williams said.  “Those three places really, really personify those things. It was a perfect fit.”

The appreciation for Williams was never more evident than after his final game as a member of the Bills. The stoic lineman made a heart-warming victory lap around the perimeter of Buffalo’s New Era Stadium while high-fiving members of the “Bills Mafia” as the crowd roared in admiration.

“It wasn’t something I had in my mind to do,” Williams said. “The lap wasn’t really planned but my kids and wife came down to meet me and people started filtering down the stairs. It ended up being crowded around the interior and I made a lap. More than anything, I wanted them to know that I appreciated them for supporting me and my team all the years I was there.”

With his wife, Baton Rouge native Jill, and their five children, daughters Kate and Anna, sons Harrison, Gray and Bennett there to witness the incredible spontaneous celebration of his career, Williams made sure to pull the kids aside to explain what was happening – and why.

“I told them, ‘Look, we got to experience and do all these things today because, a long time ago I made a decision that I was going to do my best every day,’” Williams said.  “I said, ‘I was going to try to be at my very best every single day, work my hardest and be coachable. I was going to try to be my best and be the best teammate I could be every day and see where that would take me.’

“I said, ‘The only reason we were able to do all these things today and have a connection with a franchise and a community is because I made that decision.’ If anything good ever came out of my NFL career, hopefully it’s that my kids saw that and heard that and what that can lead to, if you follow that way of thinking.”

Williams grew up in Ruston during what he calls the “heyday” of Bearcats football in the 1980s and 1990s and he couldn’t wait to join the team.

“I was a young kid running around watching those guys and knowing about those guys,” Williams said. “It probably hit a lull there in the mid-‘90s, but when Coach Tommy Reeder took over when I was a freshman, we really saw some good years. We lost in the state championship in 1998 and in the semifinals the next year. We had some really good teams and some really good players too. I was high school teammates and friends with Jack Hunt, who went to LSU, Robert Peace who went to Tennessee, and Jeremy Hamilton who went to Louisiana Tech.  Just on and on. We had some good teams and good players back then.” 

Coming out of Ruston, Williams rated as one of the nation’s most coveted defensive line prospects. He was named the Class 5A Louisiana Defensive MVP after recording 78 tackles, 17 for losses, seven sacks, four fumble recoveries and an interception for Ruston as a senior.

“What he did for the football program as a player is quite obvious,” said current Ruston High School head coach Jerrod Baugh, who hired Williams as his defensive coordinator in 2020. “They had not been to a state championship in quite some time and he was part of the crew who brought them back to a state championship game.”

In 2002, Williams joined a rising LSU team coached by Nick Saban and took over as a starter at defensive tackle midway through the 2003 season. As a sophomore that year, Williams made 41 tackles over LSU’s 14 games with 6.5 tackles for losses and 4 sacks for a team that won the BCS National Championship by beating Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.    

Williams played in 46 games at LSU, starting 33 times and recording 16.5 sacks with 26 tackles for losses. Finishing his college career under Les Miles, Williams earned second-team All-America honors in his senior season of 2005.

“You always learn and I’ve been around a lot of different coaches,” Williams said. “A lot of different position coaches and head coaches. You always try to take the good from all of them that you can as a player to get better.” 

The Bills picked Williams in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft and wound up with one of the great leaders in franchise history. Williams ranked fifth in team history in tackles (610) including a club-record 48.5 sacks by a defensive tackle. He played in 183 games overall and started all but five. A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Williams was named a second-team Associated Press All-Pro for the 2010 season.

“It’s a really tight-knit community there,” Williams said of the Buffalo area. “As far as game day experiences, for the NFL, it really doesn’t get much better. The people there are wild about their community, their football team. It could not have fit any better. .. People in Buffalo celebrated grit as much as they celebrated talent.”

Williams was a rock for Buffalo despite plenty of changes. The franchise had two owners, six general managers, seven head coaches and eight defensive coordinators during his career.

“One of the things that I appreciate about Kyle was not only his play on the field, but his leadership, man,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier told the Buffalo News in 2021. “I remember last year when we won our first playoff game, I texted … to thank Kyle for his leadership because he had so much to do with the foundation that was laid here that has allowed us to have the success that we’re currently having. He really helped me in my first year coming to Buffalo, just being able to echo my message to our defense and even when things got a little rocky at times or we had a tough time in a ballgame, he was one of those guys that was really solid throughout the ups and downs that I could count on in a leadership role and I’ll forever be grateful to Kyle for that.

“Not only was he a great player for us, but just a great person as well. And the two don’t always intertwine. And when you have that, you have a chance to have a special human being on your team and in this case on our defense, and that’s what he was for us, and he still is today.”

Football brought Williams full circle as he became the Ruston High School defensive coordinator two years ago. The head coach Baugh said Williams stayed in touch with his roots throughout his career and is an incredible asset as his coordinator.

“It’s handy to have somebody sitting in the next room who you can pick their brain and get a lot of different ideas because he’s so many things,” Baugh said. “That’s the part in football that he brings. But to me, the very most important thing he brings is his relationship with our kids and being willing to help our kids any way he can.”

For Williams, the job is an opportunity to share a philosophy and approach that has served him well. 

“Really, that moment I shared with my kids at the end of my career is something I want to communicate to our high school kids,” Williams said. “Not everybody will get to play college or NFL football. But you try to build successful people and good men who will be part of their community. They’ll be part of a team, whether it’s a football team, in business or a family. Do the best you can every day and you’ll be surprised how well it will turn out no matter what you’re talking about.” 

Artwork by CHRIS BROWN, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame


Grambling-Southern shifts to major network coverage, earlier kickoff Nov. 26

JOURNAL SPORTS

No more secondary television network for the state’s biggest in-state rivalry game, the Bayou Classic.

The 49th Annual Bayou Classic, pitting arch-rivals Grambling and Southern in their season-ending football clash, will be carried nationally by NBC.

The Saturday, Nov. 26 confrontation in the Caesars Superdome will have its earliest kickoff in seven years, thanks to the upgrade of the network TV platform.  The Tigers and Jaguars will kick shortly after the telecast begins at 1 p.m. in New Orleans.

In 2015, the game shifted to air on the now-defunct NBC Sports Network and kickoff was backed up to 4 o’clock.

Grambling won last year’s Bayou Classic, 29-26, in New Orleans, breaking a string of three straight Southern victories. Grambling has taken nine of the last 15 meetings dating back to 2008, but Southern has won six of the last 10. The Bayou Classic series is knotted at 24-24.

The second most-prominent neutral site game on the Tigers’ schedule also is shifting its kickoff time. The State Fair Classic in the DFW Metroplex announced its kickoff time on Saturday, October 1 at the Cotton Bowl Stadium will be 6 p.m., departing from an afternoon start. 

The Tigers open the season with a 6 p.m. kickoff at Arkansas State on Saturday, September 3.  The following Saturday, the G-Men come to Shreveport for a neutral site contest against Northwestern State at Independence Stadium that is also slated to kick at 6.

Grambling’s home opener is October 15 when Florida A&M visits Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium. Season tickets for the three home games (Florida A&M, Alcorn State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff) along with games against Prairie View A&M and Northwestern State are on sale through the Grambling ticket office.

Photo courtesy of Bayou Classic


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


Fincher, Netterville take a place among Tech’s elite student-athletes

GREAT GPA, ERA: Shreveport-Byrd product Jonathan Fincher has earned his second straight Academic All-America honor in his Louisiana Tech career.

JOURNAL STAFF

Whatever dreams Jonathan Fincher and Steele Netterville carried with them from Line Avenue and C.E. Byrd High School to Louisiana Tech, it’s a lock they never imagined being mentioned in the same sentence with Kim Mulkey.

Forever more, they will be.

Fincher, a junior left-handed pitcher, and Netterville, a senior outfielder, have earned Academic All-America honors for the second time, the College Sports Information Directors of America has announced.

They join Mulkey and two other former Tech scholar-athletes, Paige England and Katie Sloan, as having won Academic All-America recognition at least twice.

Next spring, Fincher can match Mulkey’s remarkable feat of winning Academic All-America in three different seasons.

When COSIDA released the 2022 Academic All-America Division I baseball roster, the Tech tandem was among six scholar-athletes who were repeat picks from 2021.

They have both earned undergraduate degrees in biology. Fincher, who has a year of eligibility left for the Bulldogs, had a 3.90 GPA while Netterville, headed to LSU Health Sciences medical school in the fall, finished with a 3.93. They are pursuing second degrees in kinesiology and health sciences.

The former Yellow Jackets helped the Bulldogs finish 43-21 with a Conference USA Tournament championship, and were key parts of a program that reached an NCAA Regional for a second straight year. The Bulldogs swept LSU this season and went 20-10 in CUSA regular-season play, finishing second to nationally-ranked Southern Miss.

Fincher posted Tech’s second-best earned run average (3.52) while going 8-2, making 14 starts and 19 appearances. He threw 79.1 innings and struck out 73. He led the team in wins.

Netterville was third on the squad with a .313 batting average and delivered 15 doubles, breaking the school career mark near the end of the regular season, along with 15 home runs and 67 RBI, both second among the Bulldogs this spring.

England, a softball standout, made second-team Academic All-America in 1998 and first-team in 1999.

Sloan, who starred in soccer, was a third-team pick in 2015 and a first-team selection a year later.

Mulkey was a third-team choice as a sophomore, then first team in her final two seasons playing for the Lady Techsters.

Fincher and Netterville were second-team choices this year. Netterville was a first-team selection in 2021 and Fincher made the Academic AA third team in his sophomore season.

Voting is done by sports information/media relations/athletic communications personnel at the Division I athletic programs nationally, after voters in eight regions choose all-district teams. First-team all-district selections advance to the national ballot.

Fincher and Netterville are among 20 Tech scholar-athletes all-time to earn the prestigious distinction.

 

SPOTLIGHT: This lefty is all right

Photo by TOM MORRIS, Louisiana Tech


This fits: Byrd’s Netterville represents Tech as C-USA postgraduate scholarship winner

A LITTLE SOMETHING FOR THE EFFORT:  Byrd High product Steele Netterville just finished his baseball career, taking a place among the all-time best at Louisiana Tech, and earned a postgraduate scholarship from Conference USA in recognition of his remarkable academic and athletic accomplishments.

JOURNAL SPORTS

Shreveport-Byrd product Steele Netterville of the Louisiana Tech baseball team was announced Thursday as one of 14 recipients for the Conference USA Jim Castañeda Postgraduate Scholarship.

Every season, C-USA grants the $4,000 scholarship to distinguished graduates selected by the league’s Faculty Athletics Representatives and approved by the Conference USA Board of Directors. One graduating senior from each member institution is selected.

Netterville, just announced as an Academic All-American for the second consecutive year, has lofty credentials in the classroom and on the diamond.

Netterville graduated in 2021 with a degree in biology with a 3.90 GPA. He is currently pursuing a second degree in kinesiology and health sciences. Netterville has been accepted into the LSU Health Sciences medical school and will enroll this fall. He delayed entering medical school to play for the Bulldogs this spring and helped lead them to the NCAA Austin Regional after delivering the winning RBI to lift Tech to the C-USA Tournament championship a week earlier.

He’s a three-time C-USA All-Academic team selection, a C-USA All-Freshman Team honoree and won multiple C-USA Hitter of the Week honors over his five-year career at Tech.

Netterville finished as the new school career record-holder in doubles. He sits tied for second all-time at Tech with 46 home runs.

The outfielder left his mark as a career .300 hitter, playing in a whopping 226 games. He is second all-time in RBI with 211.

Photo by TOM MORRIS, Louisiana Tech

SPOTLIGHT: Steele Netterville is double trouble


Texas-born and raised, Susan Jackson a perfect Tiger now

By SCOTT RABALAIS, Written for the LSWA

In her entire gymnastics career at LSU, Susan Jackson never got a perfect 10.

For her former coach, that just doesn’t match the recollections she has of one of the best LSU ever had.

“In my memory she’s a 10,” D-D Breaux said. “So many incredible performances in the clutch.”

In a program whose history is filled with glittering stars, Jackson’s accomplishments shine brightest. She’s the only three-time NCAA individual champion ever at LSU, and to date the only Tiger to win the coveted NCAA all-around title, in addition to a pair of Southeastern Conference titles and 12 All-American honors.

“She was groundbreaking for a program that wasn’t really ranked,” said McKenna Kelley, another former LSU All-American who like Jackson grew up in Houston and trained at the same gym. “She helped build that.”

Jackson will be one of nine athletes and coaches enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame June 23-25 in Natchitoches. Three contributors are also part of the Class of 2022. For participation opportunities and information, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Jackson, who was alongside her coach when Breaux was inducted in 2017. She is only the second competitive gymnast to enter the Hall, following Centenary Olympian Kathy Johnson Clarke in 1996.

Like a lot of gymnasts, Jackson started early.

“I was a pretty obnoxious toddler,” she said. “I was swinging from closet rods and balance beaming on the back of the couch. To save the house and myself from destruction, my parents put me somewhere with the safety of mats and coaches who could supervise me.

“I watch videos now of when I was 3 at the gym close to home. The form I had on my back handsprings was perfect.”

Jackson started training at Stars Gymnastics in Houston with the goal of competing in the 2004 Athens Olympics. By 11 she was doing gymnastics at the elite level, and by 12 she made the U.S. National Team.

Jackson finished fourth in the 2005 Elite National Classic in the all-around, fifth in the 2001 USA Championships, and third in the 2000 Junior Pan-American Games. Jackson didn’t quite make it to the Olympics, but she started being recruited by a host of top college programs.

Although LSU wasn’t a top gymnastics school, “they started recruiting me, and it was about how the coaches treated me,” Jackson said. “I felt they cared about me as Susan, not just the athlete.”

Along with another of LSU’s greatest gymnastics champions, Ashleigh Clare-Kearney Thigpen, the Tigers finally made their drive to the top.

“When you have someone of that caliber on the team with you,” said Clare-Kearney Thigpen, LSU’s winningest gymnast with 114 individual titles including two NCAA championships in 2009 on floor and vault, “it pushes you to be your best.”

In 2008, Jackson and Clare-Kearney led LSU to its first Super Six appearance; the Tigers finished fifth overall, and Jackson won her first NCAA individual title, in the vault with a 9.8563 average score.

In 2009, the Tigers finished sixth, then came up just short of the Super Six in 2010, Jackson’s senior year, but she stole the show individually. In a year where she tied the single-season school record for most vault titles (12) and set a record for most all-around titles (11, surpassed by Sarah Finnegan in 2019 with 14), she won the NCAA balance beam and all-around titles with scores of 9.9625 and 39.625, respectively.

Jackson went on to win the 2010 Gymnastics Honda Award and the 2010 AAI Award, considered the Heisman of women’s college gymnastics given to the nation’s top senior. A national runner-up on beam that year as well, she was also named SEC gymnast and athlete of the year.

After LSU, Jackson performed all over Europe with Cirque du Soleil, eventually visiting 37 countries over 2½ years. Today, Jackson works as a business developer for an industrial contractor in Houston, relocating from Baton Rouge early this year.

“If you know Texans, we’re very proud,” she said. “They say you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl. I was mistaken in that. Louisiana is something special. It’s half of me now.”

Artwork by CHRIS BROWN, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame


And then, the end of things

ATTABOY IN AUSTIN: Bulldogs catcher Jorge Corona and pitcher Greg Martinez celebrated Tech’s opening win, and as it turned out, last one of the season Friday at the Austin Regional. 

Opinion by TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

In a flash, it ends.

A gut punch you should have seen coming, one you tell yourself to prepare for, but can’t.

The shock of how suddenly a college baseball team’s season ends is always surprising to me, though by now it shouldn’t be.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but in this game, when a team loses in postseason, it’s running-into-a-brick-wall over. Hard and fast and unforgiving.

Louisiana Tech baseball coach Lane Burroughs was only seconds removed from a season-ending news conference flanked by teary-eyed senior teammates and roomies Taylor Young and Steele Netterville. They’d both homered in their final game, a 9-7 loss to Air Force in the NCAA Austin Regional Sunday.

It wasn’t enough. Not enough runs. Not enough arms. And on this day, not enough time.

“I never get used to it,” said Burroughs as he prepared to make his final 2022 walk to a clubhouse, a guy whose team only days ago “couldn’t have been in a better place.”

The Bulldogs had beaten Dallas Baptist, 12-7, and used only two pitchers to get all but one out. Great shape. A dozen hits, five for extra bases.

But the next night the Bulldogs scored only two runs despite 13 hits in a 5-2 loss to Texas; it helped the Longhorns when, in the late innings, they found a leak in Tech’s normally dependable bullpen.

And then came Air Force and the same thing; Tech couldn’t get anybody out as the game wore on.

“And now,” Burroughs said, “it’s over.”

Football and basketball have clocks. You know how much real time you have. In baseball, time comes with mystery.

Football and basketball guys can run out the clock on you and you’re helpless. But if you’ve got at-bats and outs, there’s always time in baseball, so there’s always hope. In baseball, time is eternal.

Until it’s not.

Tech trailed in the bottom of the ninth by two. Netterville flied out. Cole McConnell got a base hit. And now Jorge Corona, who’d homered earlier and had a career-high six RBIs Friday, was at the plate.

Still with time.

A 1-1 swing. Groundball to shortstop. To second. To first.

Classic 6-4-3. As ordinary as baseball gets, and in this case, as agonizing.

“Twin-killing” is baseball lingo for a double play. And this one killed both baserunners and Tech’s 43-21 season.

All spring long, the Bulldogs kept losing on Friday nights and rebounding to win series after series until taking the CUSA Tournament title on the field of its rival in Hattiesburg. The joy around the program was real and evident in The Love Shack Ladies, the Philsexuals, the Baseball Mamas, the Right Field Dawgs, a wide-range of personalities and colors and sounds and cheering preferences, all rooting for a program that had languished until the past few seasons. A mix of unique circumstances layered it all.

“From the tornado, to rebuilding, to Division Champs, to records broken…,” said Teri Netterville, the mom of two players and a graduate born deep in Tech tradition. “My god, it feels like we’ve been part of a Lifetime movie.”

Not a bad way to sum it up.

“I’ve always thought it’s like the beauty and the beast,” Burroughs said. “There’s the beauty of winning in college baseball, getting into a Regional, winning some games, could be playing well, you’re hot … but if you don’t win tomorrow, it’s over.

“That’s,” he said, “the beast. This part right here.”

And with that he followed Young and Netterville down the hall and out of the stadium and onto the bus and out of the playoffs. A beast. A chapter over; what a movie it was.

But spring comes again, and more guys will show up to play, and fans will show up to root, and it’ll all happen over again, because even though loving big means hurting big when something is lost, it is better to have played and lost, then never to have played at all.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

Photo by TOM MORRIS, Louisiana Tech


LSUS baseball lands three on NAIA All-America team

NAIA ALL-AMERICAN: LSUS pitcher Kevin Miranda has been named a second-team NAIA All-American by the NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Association All-American Committee.

JOURNAL STAFF

LSUS baseball, coming off one of its best seasons in school history, had three selected to the 2022 NAIA All-America team by the NAIA Baseball Coaches’ Association All-America Committee.

Pitchers Kevin Miranda and Bobby Vath and shortstop Austin McNicholas were named after helping lead the Pilots to a 53-8 record and a 31-2 mark in Red River Athletic Conference play.

Miranda was named to the NAIA All-America second team as well as being the RRAC Pitcher of the Year after one of the best seasons an LSUS pitcher has ever had. The senior led the nation with 156 strikeouts and walked only 13 in 88 2/3 innings. He had a 13-1 record and a 2.44 ERA.

Vath was named honorable mention after a sparkling season record 12-0 with a 2.40 ERA. He worked 97 2/3 innings with 126 strikeouts and just 25 walks.

McNicholas was also an honorable mention selection after being named the RRAC Player of the Year. The senior from Austin, Texas finished the season with a .390 average with four home runs and 51 RBI. He also had 26 doubles and two triples.

Photo courtesy of LSUS


BPCC’s Aholelei named NJCAA Pitcher of the Year

JOURNAL STAFF

Bossier Parish Community College’s Primrose Aholelei has been named the NFCA National Junior College Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year.

Aholelei, a first team All-American, led NJCAA DI with 28 victories (28-3) and 344 strikeouts, while posting the country’s fifth-lowest ERA at 1.14. 

Her 12.61 strikeouts per seven innings ranked second and her nine shutouts ranked third. Aholelei recorded 14 double-digit strikeout games, including a season-best 17 twice in wins over Northeast Texas and Trinity Valley.

She allowed only 98 hits and 46 walks, while holding the opposition to a .146 batting average, which was fourth-lowest amongst NJCAA DI pitchers.

The Cavaliers finished the season with a 42-12 overall record and were first in Region XIV with a 22-2 mark.

SPOTLIGHT: BPCC has a twin win


Tigers’ bullpen falters in regional final, USM eliminates LSU

SEARCHING FOR A STOP:  First-year LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson (center) used four different relievers in the seventh inning Monday but Southern Miss rang up four runs to take the upper hand in its regional championship victory over the Tigers.

JOURNAL STAFF

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – LSU played well without the lead in the NCAA Baseball Hattiesburg Regional, but the Tigers’ season ended Monday because their bullpen couldn’t hold leads.

The No. 2 seed Tigers held the lead for the first six innings Monday, but LSU’s relievers couldn’t fend off the pesky host Southern Miss as the No. 1 seed Golden Eagles won the regional in an 8-7 victory, scoring the game-winner in the top of the ninth.

USM bested the Tigers (40-22) in the last two matchups, winning 8-4 Sunday in an elimination game for the Golden Eagles (46-17) to force Monday’s game for the Super Regionals slot.

Southern Miss broke a 7-7 tie in the ninth inning, scoring one run. USM started with a pair of singles followed by a sacrifice fly RBI from Danny Lynch, all before LSU reliever Eric Reyzelman recorded an out.

Reyzelman (1-2) received the loss with one run allowed in two innings, but four different LSU arms allowed Southern Miss to score four runs in the seventh inning as the Golden Eagles snatched a 7-6 edge.

USM’s monster inning started with a walk (LSU pitcher Jacob Hasty), hit by pitch (Devin Fontenot) and an error. Christopher Sargent and Slade Wilks drove in runs before Gabe Montenegro highlighted the inning with a two-RBI single.

LSU struck back with a Gavin Dugas solo home run in the eighth inning to tie the score at 7-7, but it’s the only run USM relievers Landon Harper and Tyler Stuart allowed as they thwarted LSU for the final 2 1-3 innings.

The Tigers built a 4-1 lead bolstered by a three-run first inning. Tre’ Morgan singled in a pair of runs with a Jordan Thompson RBI bunt single to cap the scoring off USM starter Tanner Hall.

Morgan (2-4, 3 RBIs) and Thompson (2-4, 2 RBIs) led an LSU offense that collected 11 hits, only to be outpaced by USM’s 12 hits.

But the Golden Eagles feasted on a patchwork LSU pitching staff while a tapestry of USM pitchers held up just well enough.

On top of Harper’s and Stuart’s relief efforts, relievers Chandler Best and Dalton Rogers cobbled together 4 2-3 innings with three runs allowed.

USM will remain at home in the Super Regionals with in-state foe Ole Miss coming to town after walloping Arizona by scoring 22 runs in the Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional.

Photo courtesy of ESPN/NCAA


Dogs Gone: Tech’s season ends in Austin

BULLDOG BROTHERS:  Seniors Taylor Young (8) and Steele Netterville celebrated a Netterville home run Sunday at the NCAA Austin Regional before a late loss to Air Force ended their college careers.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — Louisiana Tech had 13 hits, but few of them timely, and left an unlucky 13 runners on base in a 5-2 loss to Texas Saturday, then saw its bullpen collapse for the second game in a row in a 9-7 loss to Air Force Sunday and the Diamond Dogs were eliminated from the NCAA Austin Regional at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

It was the second NCAA Regional in two seasons for Tech, which hosted last year. Champions of the Conference USA Tournament, the Bulldogs finished 43-21.

“Once you get to the tournament, you’re in with 64 good teams,” Tech head coach Lane Burroughs said. “Air Force is one of them. We have a ton of respect for their program, for Coach (Mike) ‘Kaz’ (Kazlausky, Maj. Ret.) and what they do for our country. They scratched their starter, had to come back with another arm and still got it done. Tip of the hat to them.

“Great season for us; we never gave up,” he said. “Proud of how our guys fought; today, this weekend, it just wasn’t meant to be.”

The Bulldogs built a 4-0 lead on an RBI double from Cole McConnell in the first and, in the second, a sacrifice fly from Wade Elliott and a two-run homer from Taylor Young, who was 1-for-4 with a walk, a run scored, one putout and four assists in his final game as a Bulldog.

But Air Force scored two runs in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings and banged out 10 of its game-total 17 hits during that time off a trio of Bulldog relievers.

Saturday night, Texas broke away from a 1-1 tie in front of a stadium-record crowd (8,502) when the Longhorns scored three in the seventh and one in the eighth against a Tech bullpen that had been the model of consistency.

Sunday afternoon, after Air Force had taken a 7-5 lead in the top of the seventh, Tech tied things with a two-run homer by senior rightfielder Steele Netterville, his 15th homer of the season.

But Air Force answered with two in the top of the eighth, got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the inning, and C.J. Dornak, the Falcons’ third pitcher of the day, retired the side in the ninth; McConnell singled with one out before a 6-4-3 double play ended it.

The postgame press conference from Burroughs, Young, and Netterville was little about baseball and mostly about relationships that grow through sports.

 “I can’t put into words what it means to me to put on this jersey,” said Young, who’s played more games, had more hits, and scored more runs than anyone in program history. “These last five years have been the best of my life.

“When we started, we were just scratching to get into the (league) tournament,” he said. “What’s taking place here now is just incredible.”

“He gave me an opportunity, and I’m forever grateful,” Shreveporter Netterville said of his coach. “I never expected to grow so close my coaches and my teammates.

“There’s no one better than Taylor Young in the history of this program, and that’s a fact. I love him like a brother, I’d do anything for him. I’d do anything for these two sitting right here.”

“We’ve got hardware in our building now because of what they’ve done, these two and our seniors,” Burroughs said. “We’re gonna keep going, keep building this thing. We’ll be back, I can assure you.”

Photo by TOM MORRIS, Louisiana Tech


Weekend Sports Scoreboard

Friday

College Baseball

NCAA Division I Tournament

Austin Regional

Louisiana Tech 12, Dallas Baptist 5

Hattiesburg Regional

LSU 14, Kennesaw State 11     

USA Volleyball (Brookshire Grocery Arena)

Germany vs. Korea (3-0), 25-22, 25-15, 25-16
Brazil def. Dominican Republic (3-1), 25-9, 16-25, 25-18, 25-17
USA def. Canada (3-0), 25-14, 25-22, 25-19

Golf

AJGA Shreveport Junior Open (At Querbes Park)

FNIAL RESULTS

BOYS

T1. Carson Cooper, Spring, Texas, 66-65-67—1398(-15)

T2. Noah McWilliams, Benton, La., 67-65-67—199 (-14)

T3. Alejandro Fierro Saul (Mexico), 66-67-69—202 (-11)

T3. Joshua Achord, Abita Springs, La., 67-67-68—202 (-11)

T5. Braden Bergman, Flint, Texas, 68-68-67—204 (-9)

T6. Grant Reagan, Shreveport, La., 72-66-67—205 (8)

AREA SCORES

T15. Charlie Bell, Shreveport, La., 68-72-71—211 (-2)

T19. James Holtsclaw, Shreveport, La., 71-73-69—213 (E)

T22. Peyton Johnson, Shreveport, La., 72-77-65—214 (+1)

T37. Hudson Greene, Bossier City, La., 76-71-71—218 (+5)

T49. Shep Smith, Shreveport, La., 77-78-75—230 (+17)

T50. Madden Sawrie, Bossier City, La., 74-77-80—231 (+18)

GIRLS

T1. Anna Kate Nichols, Little Rock, Ark., 70-67-71—208 (-5)

T2. Sydney Moss, Shreveport, La., 70-69-73—212 (-1)

T2. Nicole Iniakov, Prunedale, Calif., 68-71-73—212 (-1)

T4. Bonnie Zhai, (Canada) Surrey British Columbia, 71-70-69—213 (E)

T5. Bella Flores, Kingwood, Texas, 74-68-72—214 (+1)

Saturday

College Baseball

NCAA Division I Tournament

Austin Regional

Texas 5, Louisiana Tech 2

Hattiesburg Regional

LSU 7, Southern Miss 6, 10 innings

USA Volleyball (Brookshire Grocery Arena)

Poland def. Korea (3-0), 25-9, 25-23, 25-11
Japan def. Dominican Republic (3-1), 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 25-10
USA def. Brazil (3-0), 25-21, 25-20, 25-18

Sunday

College Baseball

NCAA Division I Tournament

Austin Regional

Air Force 9, Louisiana Tech 7

Hattiesburg Regional

Southern Miss 8, LSU 4

USA Volleyball (Brookshire Grocery Arena)

Poland DEF. Germany (3-2), 27-25, 25-22, 14-25, 23-25, 15-7
Japan def. USA (3-0), 25-23, 25-20, 25-20


LSU, Southern Miss collide in deciding game this afternoon

TIGER ANTIDOTE: Southern Miss pitcher Justin Storm quieted LSU’s bats Sunday night, extending the Hattiesburg Regional into today’s 3 p.m. do-or-cry championship game.

JOURNAL STAFF

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – The LSU baseball team’s NCAA Tournament weekend had two major comebacks, but the No. 2 seed Tigers couldn’t punch their ticket to the NCAA Super Regional on Sunday as host Southern Miss forced an if-necessary game with an 8-4 win.

The Tigers (40-21) and Golden Eagles (46-17) will play today at 3 p.m. to decide the regional winner.

After playing from behind in its first tournament games, LSU couldn’t hold a pair of two-run leads as the No. 1 seed Golden Eagles plated the final six runs.

The Tigers began with a Cade Doughty two-run home run in the first inning, which Southern Miss answered with a pair of runs off starter Samuel Dutton.

LSU snatched a two-run lead again in the third inning with a Doughty (2-4, 3 RBIs) RBI-single and run scored on a passed ball.

But USM responded again in the bottom of the third, plating a pair on RBIs from Slade Wilks and Danny Lynch to tie the score 4-4. LSU reliever Riley Cooper stopped the bleeding by recording the final two outs with the bases loaded, but no offensive calvary would be coming Sunday.

The Golden Eagles scored three runs in the sixth inning off reliever Eric Reyzelman, who allowed the first two home on a wild pitch and a balk.

After USM starter Matthew Adams lasted just two innings, the Golden Eagles bullpen went the rest of the way, not allowing a run.

Justin Storm (3-0) struck out seven in five innings with just two hits to finish off LSU and keep USM’s season alive with its second win Sunday after eliminating Kennesaw State 4-3 in 10 innings.

FRIDAY: LSU 14, Kennesaw State 11

LSU was staring at a seven-run deficit with two innings remaining after four straight scoreless innings against the Kennesaw State pitching staff.

An offensive explosion didn’t appear to be in the making, but the Tigers unleashed a 10-run eighth inning to come back for the win against the No. 3 seed Eagles.

LSU’s first seven batters reached base without an out to begin a frame with seven hits and four free passes (three walks and one hit-by-pitch) total.

Consecutive RBI hits by Jacob Berry, Josh Pearson and Jordan Thompson plated the first three runs to chase reliever Jack Myers (seven runs in 5 1-3 innings).

Tre’ Morgan singled in another pair of runs followed by a Brayden Jobert RBI to close to 11-9 on Kennesaw State.

Dylan Crews and Pearson plated the final four runs to close out the offensive onslaught.

All 10 runs were scored with just one out.

SATURDAY: LSU 7, Southern Miss 6

One day later, the Tigers faced a four-run hole in the ninth inning against host Southern Miss.

No problem.

The Tigers scored four in the ninth and then supplied the winning run on a Josh Pearson chopper up the middle of the infield with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Trailing 6-2 entering the ninth, Crews started the scoring with a solo home run, his 22nd this season.

But the Tigers had two outs with no runners on base before the next four batters supplied three runs to tie the game.

Pearson singled before Cade Doughty smashed a two-run home run, both on two-strike counts.

LSU manufactured the last run after Tre’ Morgan was hit by a pitch, and pinch runner stole second base before Jordan Thompson singled him in.

Southern Miss plated four early runs against starter Ty Floyd. The Tigers bullpen allowed two runs over four innings with Paul Gervase (4-1) pitching a perfect 10th inning for the win.

Photo courtesy of USM


Travinski hopes to provide postseason pop for LSU

LOCAL TIGER: Former Loyola and Airline All-Stater Hayden Travinski and the LSU Tigers open play this evening in the Hattiesburg Regional.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

That wasn’t much secret as to what Hayden Travinski was trying to do when he was playing baseball in high school.

“I just tried to hit the ball as hard as possible,” the LSU redshirt sophomore said.

He’s still hitting it plenty hard, but things are a lot different for the player who spent his first two years at Loyola and then his last two at Airline (he was All-State at both schools).

Travinski, who this spring has been used mostly as a pinch hitter but has had 16 starts at catcher and designated hitter, has six home runs – the most of any LSU player who is not a regular starter.

No matter how he is used, he is dangerous for opposing teams when he steps in the batter’s box.

He will be looking to get his chances this weekend when the Tigers play in the Hattiesburg Regional of the NCAA Tournament. With a 38-20 overall record, the Tigers are the No. 2 seed.

“In high school, I really didn’t really go up there (to the plate) with a plan,” Travinski said. “I’ve learned there’s a lot more that goes into it.”

There have been plenty of things he has had to learn since becoming a Tiger, mainly about dealing with injuries. He had his first knee surgery during his junior year at Airline and has had two more since coming to Baton Rouge.

“I’ve been able to contribute throughout the year,” he said. “My main thing has been being healthy. I see that as a success, to be able to play throughout the season.”

Travinski is batting .242 with three doubles and 13 RBI to go with his home run total. In LSU’s series win over Florida in late March, he hit home runs in both of the games he played. The next weekend, he had a pair of multi-hit games against Auburn and then hit two home runs against Grambling a few days later.

“All around, I think I’m a lot different,” Travinski said of the difference of him from high school. “I understand the game a lot more and I understand myself as a player a lot more. I feel like I’ve improved in every facet, whether that’s offensively or defensively; just knowing my strengths and trying to build on the weaknesses. Plus, I try to be better mentally, more controlled, having a plan, things like that you learn as you get older.”

A year ago, he had 12 starts in 29 games played with four home runs and 13 RBI.

“Last year it was kind of similar in pinch hitting,” he said. “You never know when you are going to play, so I just try to control the things I can control and put myself in the best position I can possibly be in.”

Travinski will try to put the Tigers in the best position when they take on third-seeded Kennesaw State (35-26, RPI 46) at 6 p.m. today and for the rest of the regional.

“Honestly, I feel like we could have had a better record in the SEC and overall,” he said. “We haven’t had some of our best players lately. But getting them back, getting quality at bats and playing like we can in the field … If you combine all those things, I think we have no other option but for things to go in our favor.”

Photo courtesy of LSU Athletics


Tech’s Designated Hit Men: Bulldogs face DBU 6:30 today in Austin Regional

IN THE SWING OF THINGS: Bulldog DH Walker Burchfield calls his decision to come to Tech “one of the greatest decisions of my life. I’m thankful every day.”

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

The party started on the infield grass just inside the first base bag, where Louisiana Tech’s Walker Burchfield was bobbing up and down, as if on a pogo stick, before he was swallowed in a sea of red jerseys and joy.

Moments before, he’d been at the plate as a pinch hitter in a Conference USA game that would send the winner to the title game and the loser home.

Nice work if you can hit it. And Burchfield did.

Bottom of the ninth. Down by a run to Old Dominion, a 9-6 winner in 13 innings earlier in the day. One out. Bases loaded. Part of Tech’s two-headed designated hitter team — the lefthanded hitting Jackson Lancaster, who’d started the game, against righties, Burchfield against lefties.

Burchfield was now a (designated) pinch hitter.

The pitcher was righthanded reliever Vincent Bashara, and Jackson had been lifted earlier for a pinch runner. Tech coach Lane Burroughs chose to send up the righthanded-hitting Burchfield anyway, a guy who didn’t start but was 1-for-1 with a walk in the day’s first game.

“It had been a long day, so I didn’t think the pitcher would throw a breaking ball and put the heat on his catcher when a passed ball could tie the game,” Burchfield said. “AD (Adarius Myers, who’d batted before Burchfield) saw two fastballs his first two pitches, both on the inner part of the plate. I was thinking if I see fastball out of his hand, and it’s on the inner third, I’m swinging.”

And that’s what Burchfield saw.

“I didn’t barrel it,” he said, “but I guessed right and it worked out in my favor. Just enough to get it out of the infield.”

The party-starting soft liner to left center brought home Steele Netterville from third and a sliding Cole McConnell from second for a 9-8 win.

“Best moment of my life,” Burchfield said.

That hit vaulted Tech into the title game the Bulldogs won against UTSA, 9-8, in another walk-off, this time from Netterville. All that, and its 42-19 season, earned Tech a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Austin Regional and a 6:30 p.m. meeting today with No.3 seed Dallas Baptist on ESPN+.

No. 1 seed Texas plays No. 4 seed Air Force at 1 p.m. on the Longhorn Network.

Both Tulane transfer Burchfield and Missouri transfer Lancaster are late to the party — but just in time. Burchfield transferred from Tulane and is a junior. Lancaster, a senior in his final year, transferred from Missouri. Two of 13 Mississippians on the team, both played in junior college before finding their way to Ruston.

“It’s good to finally be at a place where baseball is actually cared about,” said Lancaster, whose hometown friend and ace reliever Kyle Crigger talked him into looking at Tech. “It’s such a family atmosphere within the team and coaching staff. I love the atmosphere we have in Ruston.”

“It’s been awesome,” Burchfield said. “Something I never saw coming; I’m thankful for it every day.”

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech Athletics


WEEKEND SCHEDULE: LSU, Louisiana Tech open NCAA baseball tourney

Friday

College Baseball

NCAA Division I Tournament

Austin Regional

Louisiana Tech vs. Dallas Baptist, 6:30 p.m.

Hattiesburg Regional

LSU vs. Kennesaw State, 6 p.m.             

USA Volleyball (Brookshire Grocery Arena)

Germany vs. Korea, 2 p.m.
Dominican Republic vs. Brazil, 5 p.m.
USA vs. Canada, 8 p.m.

Saturday

College Baseball

NCAA Division I Tournament

Austin Regional

Louisiana Tech vs. TBD

Hattiesburg Regional

LSU vs. TBD                   

USA Volleyball (Brookshire Grocery Arena)

Korea vs. Poland, 2 p.m.
Dominican Republic vs. Japan, 5 p.m.
USA vs. Brazil, 8 p.m.

Sunday

College Baseball

NCAA Division I Tournament

Austin Regional

Louisiana Tech vs. TBD

Hattiesburg Regional

LSU vs. TBD

USA Volleyball (Brookshire Grocery Arena)

Poland vs. Germany, Noon
Japan vs. USA, 3 p.m.

Note: The above schedule is subject to cancellations or reschedule