SHREVEPORT, La (KMSS/KTAL) – The LSU-Shreveport baseball team is in the business of checking boxes, as the 2021 season is winding down the Pilots have just one box left to check, winning an NAIA World Series, but before they accomplish that goal there were other boxes to check. The first, a regular-season conference title in the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament was left empty.
“We don’t even talk about the conference titles that much, because I think it’s something you’re almost expected to do, said Head Coach Brad Neffendorf. The Pilots were unable to overcome a slow start in the regular season which included a sweep to eventual Conference champion Our Lady of the Lake.
“We got off that bus after we lost all four to Our Lady. It was late that night, I looked at them and just said look don’t get off this bus if you don’t think we’re going to turn this thing around.”
With goal number one left unattained, the Pilots turned their focus to goal number two, a Conference Tournament title. After one of their worst defensive performances of the season in the tournament opener, a 6-error showing in a 9-6 loss to the University of the Southwest the Pilots ran through the rest of the bracket, earning the league’s automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament.
But the work wasn’t done, the next box to be checked resulted in the Pilots’ first appearance in the NAIA World Series since 2012, capturing the Williamsburg Regional Championship. Pitching was a major factor in the Pilots punching their ticket to the NAIA’s biggest baseball stage.
Trent Sholders worked 6.2 innings, allowing just one run on three hits in an elimination game which sent the Pilots to the Regional Championship series before Alex Bookman went 7 innings, allowing just one run of his own in game one of the Championship Series against Point Park University.
“One of the most important starts, not only is that huge what Trent Sholders did for us, we wouldn’t be where we are if not for what he did coming out of the pen for the second day in a row. Alex Bookman…what he did in an elimination game is why we are where we are today.”
As the Pilots begin their quest to check their final box, the school’s first NAIA National Championship, Coach Neffendorf believes there are two kinds of teams who make it to Lewiston.
“There’s the ones that are insanely excited and it almost turns into a vacation and they’re just happy to be here and there’s the ones who are happy to be here but it doesn’t change the goal of what you’re trying to do and we have a team that I believe that is going to be their purpose.”
The Pilots will open the NAIA World Series on Friday, taking on Keiser University at 10:30 AM.