Bengals open play in NJCAA softball tournament
“Winning the regionals the way we did boosted us up more to get a new sense of urgency. I thought it was great to come back and take the championship away from a team that beat us.” Andy Lee, LSU-Eunice coach, on the Bengals coming back through the losers’ bracket
EUNICE — Crafting a perfect pitching record on the top-ranked National Junior College Athletic Association team is a script that Brooklyn Guillot probably couldn’t have imagined as she prepared for her freshman softball season.
Surprising for Guillot, maybe, but not Andy Lee, who said he knew what to expect when Guillot first took the mound for his LSU-Eunice team.
“Brooklyn had a great résumé (at Parkview Baptist), and she’s always been a hard worker. I knew when we signed her that she was going to come in and be one of our starting pitchers,” Lee said.
Guillot (17-0) has helped LSU-Eunice to a 57-5 record and the No. 1 seed in the NJCAA National Tournament that begins Wednesday at Traceway Park in Clinton, Miss.
The Bengals, who worked their way through the loser’s bracket to win the Region 23 title, will play No. 16 Murray State (20-37) in the first-round at 1:30 p.m.
In addition to Guillot, the Bengals have relied on three other Baton Rouge-area players during a season that saw the team at one point win 28 straight games.
Freshman outfielder Codi Covington, who played at Walker High, is batting .401 and has hit four home runs on a team that has hit 50 homers in 62 games.
Sophomore Randi Vosburg, a former standout at False River Academy, has moved into the starting catcher’s spot and is batting .308 with two homers.
Carey Alexis, who played at Dutchtown, is the Bengals’ top pinch hitter and designated player who has two homers and nine RBIs during 37 appearances.
Despite her success in three high school seasons, Guillot said she was initially nervous about pitching on the college level.
“I was kind of nervous. I knew it was going to be a difference going to the next level,” Guillot said.
Lee said Guillot has had the same success with her curveball that was so effective at Parkview.
That has made Guillot a fitting complement to Julienne Broussard (26-2) who has struck out 163 in 169 innings this season for LSU-Eunice, Lee said.
“(Guillot) changes speeds very well. She is a curveball pitcher who has kept the hitters off balance. She gets a lot of ground balls, and she knows that there’s a great defense behind her,” Lee said.
Covington first signed with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette but spent last season as a freshman redshirt for the Cajuns.
Dissatisfied with the way her ULL career was progressing, Covington said she made the decision to transfer to LSU-Eunice.
“I wasn’t comfortable (at ULL). I mean the program’s great. For me personally, I felt it wasn’t the right thing,” Covington said.
Covington said ULL refused to sign a player release for her to transfer to another school. That meant she had play for a junior college team, Covington said.
Lee said he ardently recruited Covington at Walker, so he knew the kind of player that was entering his program.
This season, Covington has been a versatile hitter for the Bengals.
“Codi has been at the top of the lineup all year. She has great speed and power. She does it all from being a hitter who can swing away or one who slaps the ball,” Lee said.
This season has been different than the ones Alexis and Vosburg experienced during high school.
Alexis said she was a four-year high school starter at shortstop and the outfield. Not being in the lineup everyday this season is a big transition, she said.
“As someone who started every game since her freshman year, it was a different experience, knowing that I was coming in and had to earn my spot,” Alexis said.
Vosburg is competing at a position where she hasn’t played since her freshman season at False River.
“Randi is a defensive machine who is a great clutch hitter. She was a little raw when she first got here, but she’s a strong girl who blocks the plate and controls the running game,” Lee said.
Vosburg said she’s had to improve her offense to remain a starter.
Lee said the Bengals’ journey through the losers’ bracket in the regional tourney may have helped his team.
LSU-Eunice had to defeat Jones County Junior College twice to take the title.
“It was a blessing in disguise, I guess, after winning 28 straight. Winning the regionals the way we did boosted us up more to get a new sense of urgency.
“I thought it was great to come back and take the championship away from a team that beat us,” Lee said.