Bengals maul Hinds in Region 23 championship game

Published 12:09 pm Monday, May 24, 2010

RAYMOND — Needing two wins Sunday for its fifth National Junior College Athletic Association Region 23 championship in seven years, LSU-Eunice went out and got them.

The Bengals took the region title and a berth to the NJCAA’s Division II World Series away from Hinds Community College by sweeping a pair of elimination games at Joe G. Moss Field.

The Bengals came back from a six-run deficit in Sunday’s first game to win 12-10 and force a deciding championship game. There, the Bengals crushed Hinds 16-6.

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Starting pitching became Hinds’ undoing. Neither of its two starting pitchers made it out of the third inning. Two of Hinds’ primary relievers also struggled against the talented Bengals (47-12), who start five Division I signees. LSU-Eunice, which will now play for its third national title in five seasons, had 17 hits in the second game and 27 in the doubleheader.

“We showed up today ready to compete and get after it. Even when we were down 6-0 in the first game, we never panicked. It’s a nine-inning game. We knew we would have plenty of chances to win the game and from there we go on and win the next one,” LSU-Eunice coach Jeff Willis said.

Bengals’ freshman Raph Rymes exuded that confidence. Hinds’ pitchers struggled to get him out on Sunday. Rymes had five hits in the title game and nine for the two games. All five of his hits in Game 2 were singles and three drove in runs, including one in the second inning that made it 5-1.

“We’re a pretty confident team. Just about all our sophomores are going to Division I schools next year and our DH, Zach Kirksey, is going to Ole Miss. I didn’t know I had nine hits today. I just tried to stay focused and if they pitched me outside, to take it the other way,” Rymes said.

Hinds coach Sam Temple was full of praise for his team despite the disappointing day. The Eagles, with a lineup that includes eight Division I signees, won their first state championship since 1989.

“What a team. They will walk off here as state champions. I am so proud of their heart and how hard they played,” Temple said.

Still, the Eagles were hurt in Game 2 by eight walks and two costly errors.

“We really just broke ourselves. When you play a team like LSU-Eunice you have to seize the opportunity,” Temple said.

One of the errors came in the second inning when LSU-E was already up 3-1. Hinds pitcher Chase Wroten appeared to have induced a double-play ball but the play was botched at second base. Rymes then singled, and that was followed by an RBI double from Gabe Thibodeaux that gave the Bengals a 7-1 lead after two innings.

Down 8-1, Hinds (33-21) began to chip away. Vicksburg High product Trey Prentiss and Ryan Nance had back-to-back doubles in the sixth inning to plate two runs. In the seventh, Justin Brodnax and Tyler Wells, another former VHS star, blasted solo home runs to pull the Eagles to within 8-5.

Hinds, which had a good three-plus inning stint out of reliever Hunter Thompson after Wroten left, couldn’t get the same out of its final two pitchers. LSU-E scored four runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to turn the game into a rout at 16-5.

Eldred Barnett came off the bench to get three hits for the Bengals and drive in two. Thibodeaux also had three hits.

Wells led Hinds with a RBI single and a home run.

In the first game, former Porters Chapel star Michael Busby went 3-for-5 with two runs scored for Hinds.

Nick Schneeberger had three hits, including a solo home run, and two RBIs while Zach Polzin hit a two-run homer and finished with three RBIs.