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LSUE has winning formula

Jun 07, 2024 02:49PM ● By Jessica Waldrop

(Photo courtesy LSUE Athletics) LSU-Eunice players celebrate their eighth national title.

By Jim Gazzolo

Lake Charles native Parker Morgan etched his name into history last Saturday night in Enid, Oklahoma.

Parker, a former pitcher at St. Louis Catholic High, got the final three outs for LSU-Eunice, as the Bengals claimed their eighth national championship in NJCAA Division II play.

Parker struck out a batter before getting a title-clinching double-play in a 9-3 victory. 

Despite playing in the shadows of power college baseball programs and being often overlooked, the little school from Eunice continues to carve out its own niche in the ever-changing college sports landscape.

All the titles have come since 2006 and under the guidance of head coach Jeff Willis, who turns out championships that make all programs envious. Despite the tradition, he takes none of the winning for granted.

“I don’t know if it is ever expected,” said Willis. “But it is always special.

“The real joy is seeing the smiles on young people’s faces when they achieve their goals. That makes it worth the work.”

Willis has been the baseball coach in Eunice for 22 seasons and been the Athletic Director at the school for the last 20. He has seen a lot of changes but his mission and that of his players has remained the same.

“We don’t talk about championships but rather about reaching our potential as individuals and a team,” said Willis. “Success isn’t defined by the final score on the scoreboard but rather getting the most out of our talents. You never know how things will turn out when you start a season, but that’s what we are looking for.

“We want the blue-collar kid who has a great work ethic and is willing to work hard for his goals,” said Willis. “We have to have talent and our guys have been overlooked for whatever reasons but they have talent for sure.

“Players have to have the desire to want to be coached and get better. They also have to have the belief that the work is worth it.”

Willis said he knew his team was good, but it took until the final weekend of the regular season before things really fell into place.

“You never know about a team,” Willis said. “You want things to come together at the right time. You don’t want to peak too early or too late, you want to be playing your best at the right time.”

Under Willis the Bengals’ timing seems to always be good. 

Eunice finished the year 56-8, giving Willis a career record of 1,051-228, a whopping 823 games over .500. And he looks far from done.

Dawson Willis was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player, going 7-for-16 (.437) with seven runs, an RBI and seven stolen bases.  He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Teddy Johnson, Tournament Defensive Player Alex Dupuy, Weston Fulk, Blake Lobell and Liam Watt.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese athletics. He is the host of Poke Nation on CBS-Lake Charles