Last week, I witnessed a kind of utter dominion in a post-season championship tournament that I’ve never witnessed (or can recall) in any sport at any level. To say the Bengals made winning the regional tournament look easy amounts to understatement. Our guys played each of the other three teams in the tournament and won by gaudy scores, respectively 10-0, 17-2, and 17-0. Those scores clearly set the Bengals apart, considering that when the other three teams played one another, final scores like 5-2 and 3-2 and 7-2 looked pretty competetive. So obviously, home field advantage notwithstanding, LSU Eunice showed up as not just the first place team in the quartet, but as a truly dominant opponent.
True, the team only lost four games all season, and I’m fairly sure those four losses were all to Division I teams (the Bengals are Division II), but still I expected a more competetive tournament. What happened?
Simple: They played to their ability, and they’re simply that good. Everything that I witnessed during the season seemed to come together as kind of a “perfect storm” of performance. (For sure, storm if you played for any of the opposing teams in the tournament). I believe the ingredients of this tightly-wound tempest that unleashed such an efficient and debilitating fury on the visiting teams include the following:
Dominant Pitching: And we’re just talking about the starters, because the three starters were so dominant that no extra hands were needed. (The middle inning, set-up guys, and closers were so effective all season long that, had any of them been needed, they would have sustained the dominance anyway, I’m sure.)
Blazing bats: How does a team score 44 runs in three games? Lots of different guys have to hit the ball really hard, and hit the ball all over the ball park. Curiously, for such prolific production, no one hit a home run. But they crushed a ton of hard-hit singles with a generous scattering of extra-base smashes that screamed into the corners and bounded through the gaps as the opposing outfielders often found themselves chasing balls to the walls (literally, no pun intended, but the word play is irresistable).
Snazzy Defense: The team wasn’t perfect. They made a normal number of slop errors, maybe 2 or 3 that were noticeable, but the aspect of defense that supported their dominance was their consistent ability to make big plays, the kinds of plays that make highlight reels, like a third baseman diving across the foul line behind third and gunning out the runner with a laser-like dart across the diamond, or an out-fielder sprinting to the deepest part of his field in pursuit of a powerful drive, speeding to the fence just in time to snatch the ball that we assumed was extra bases when it exploded off the batter’s bat.
“Bengal Ball”: When these guys are on their game, I call the style “Bengal Ball.” I’ve watched it for five years now: flashy, aggressive hustle. Stretching out a hit into an extra base. Hit and run executed to perfection. Stolen bases in bunches. Playing “fast” but under control. It’s the most entertaining style of baseball because it’s ever in motion, ever pressing, ever intimidating.
Intangibles: Coach stated in recent interviews that this is the most closely-knit team he’s had in his successful tenure at LSU Eunice. They played like a bonded band all year. I believe that’s why, during the regular season, they won so many close games, overcoming adversity frequently to come from behind or come through in late innings with clutch hitting and pitching at game-deciding moments. They seemed not to need the intangibles last week in the tournament because no contest was ever in doubt for more than the first couple of innings, but I believe those qualities lurked quietly in the background of their dominance. Moreover, going forward to the national tournament, the intangibles could provide a decisive edge. Almost assuredly, the team will be tested by quality opposition in Oklahoma, so they will need their sharpest edge!
So off we go to the Plains next week. I believe this gang is ready. They play with confidence, but never overconfidence. Their confidence is the kind born of battle-tested trust and dependence on one another, tempered by belief in their proven skills; it’s not confidence born of self-centered cockiness or brash foolishness.
Yesiree, if I played for a team in the national tournament and I saw “LSU Eunice” on the bracket opposite my team, I think I might start start to sweat just a little bit.
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