SHREVEPORT, La (KMSS/KTAL) – The LSU-Shreveport Pilots are headed to the NAIA national tournament. The Pilots are the two-seed in the Williamsburg bracket and will face Reinhardt University in the first round. Sam Rothman spoke with Coach prior to their postseason play.
Sam Rothman: “Coach, I’m sure you felt like this tournament would never end the way things were going, how would you describe what the past couple of days has been like for you and for the team?
Brad Neffendorf: “Honestly very long and eventful. We went through a lot of time changes and lightning delays. The first day we switched down to Ruston, we got off the bus and the weather was great. Then right before first pitch, weather was all lightning, so I think we sat there for an hour, hour and a half, know what we were going to get the whole thing in. And then it opened up out of nowhere. We sat around for quite a while and we’re back yesterday but surprisingly, that might’ve been the best three days of baseball we’ve played yesterday in a long time. So it was very up and down.”
Sam Rothman: “As a coach, how do you approach such a crazy couple of days with everything going on both mentally and physically to have your team prepared to play and compete?”
Brad Neffendorf: “Well I think that comes down to the personnel that you got, you know, the players you got on the roster and we’ve been very focused here for the last two months prior to that I think what helped is what we went through with… you know, not a lot of people know that we played 12 games in the first 37 days of the year. You know with COVID hitting us, some of those guys, played eight games in the first 37 because they were the first group that initially was affected by COVID so I think that helped prepare us a lot, because we had gone through a lot prior to that, and it’s all about routine and just trying to keep our focus. To be honest with you, we didn’t have to stay or do a lot because that group was insanely focused the entire time.”
Sam Rothman: “You guys have had to battle through so many changes this past week like you mentioned, location changes, time changes, a championship day that turned into multiple days, but you guys were able to pull it off, be on top. What does it say about your team that you were able to overcome all of these obstacles?”
Brad Neffendorf: “I think it says everything, you know, you take a look back to I think a month and a half ago we were sitting 11-10 and now we’re 40-13. I think it ran off 20 in the last 32 and, you know, I just remember as we came back and got swept at Our Lady, we looked around and we knew we were gonna turn it around at some point and we did and I think that just says everything about this group with everything they’ve gone through I think it helped get them into this. This point right now and even with losing the first game of the tournament, you know there was never a doubt.
Sam Rothman: “You mentioned that loss in the first game of the tournament. After that you guys pulled off some commanding wins, what was the change that you saw? What were those adjustments that really proved to be the difference?
Brad Neffendorf: “Driving and guys in scoring position, better at b’s and we started off unbelievable in those first two innings against southwest. I think we had five hits and four runs and two home runs in the first game, you know, the approach just changed at the plate. You know we got to get back to a point where, you know they stuck with it. The approaches at the plate were you know what they’ve been for so long, driving guys in in scoring position. Finding ways to move guys over and just a better team team aspect.”
Sam Rothman: “Going back to last season things ended so abruptly so suddenly for everyone due to COVID-19. How much more meaningful was this tournament championship win knowing that you guys didn’t even have the opportunity to compete last season?”
Brad Neffendorf: It was because it was a long wait, especially you know we had everybody come back on this roster except for two guys last year maybe three it was. Obviously we have some new ones but those new ones are coming in after they had a decision whether they wanted to go back to where they were, were transferred here. Yeah, especially especially for standpoint you go into the year, and we dealt with COVID again. We did not know or we did know that obviously the season can end again at any point because something could wipe us out again, Our guys did a really good job of pushing that aside. With everything that’s gone on, limited amount of games to begin the year, and the record that they started with, after everything from last year, it all. Yeah, it makes it incredibly special and especially the unknown, and just pushing it aside and they’ve done. They’ve been rewarded for their approach to how they go about it every day.”
Sam Rothman: “You guys want to celebrate this one a little bit but the big tournament is coming up soon. What did you guys learn throughout this entire experience facing all this adversity that you want to take with you heading into the tournament?”
Brad Neffendorf: “Any team, any atmosphere, any regional it’s going to be something we’re ready to take on because we have dealt with so much. I mean obviously it weather hits us. we’re fine. If we play a competitive opponent within weather, we’re fine. And it just goes to show any type of challenge that can come your way…and we got taken off of our home field to go somewhere else in the tournament we were hosting to go play somewhere else so I don’t think anything is really the factor other than we’ll be ready for it.