EUNICE, La. - The American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) named LSU Eunice baseball head coach Jeff Willis the National Coach of the Year for NJCAA Division II, the organization announced last week. Willis and the other Coach of the Year selections will be honored on January 7 at the 78th annual ABCA Convention held in Chicago, Illinois.
The ABCA/ATEC Coaches of the Year are selected nine divisions, ranging from NCAA to the high school level. Coach of the Year award winners are selected by members of the ABCA All-America and Coach of the Year Committees. In addition to national honors, Willis was also named Gulf Region Coach of the Year, encompassing all of Region 23.
“This award is truly a team award from the student managers all the way up to our tremendous coaching staff,” LSU Eunice baseball head coach Jeff Willis said. “Everyone put in the hours and the work to make this a special season and this is just a byproduct of the entire team’s work ethic and success.”
This marks the seventh time Willis has been named the ABCA National Coach of the Year. Willis has also been awarded a Regional Coach of the Year recognition 11 different times in his career.
The Bengals captured the program’s seventh NJCAA Division II National Championship last month by defeating Western Oklahoma State College 5-4 in 14 innings. LSUE finished the campaign 51-7 after making the program’s 10th World Series appearance following the team’s Region 23 Tournament Championship.
In LSU Eunice’s postseason run, the Bengals defeated four teams for seven victories in the final NJCAA Division II rankings of the season including a pair of wins over then No.3 Pearl River and No. 6 Western Oklahoma State. The seven NJCAA Baseball National Championships is tied for the most in NJCAA history regardless of division with RCSJ-Gloucester (Division III).
Willis secured his 900th career win this season in the Bengals’ 11-6 decision over Kellogg CC on June 2 that sent LSU Eunice to the NJCAA Championship Series. The longtime head coach is 902-196 (.821 winning percentage) in 19 years atop the helm on the Cajun Prairie.
This marks the fourth year that the core coaching staff of Willis, Alan Orgain, Roberto Vaz and Paige Hodges has stayed intact. During that span, the Bengals have gone 182-21 (.896 winning percentage) with two NJCAA National Championships and three 50-win seasons. The only non 50-win season was a COVID-19 shortened season that ended with LSUE having a 21-0 record.
LSU Eunice saw a number of local and national awards come its way over the last month. The trio of Jarrett McDonald, Jack Merrifield and Jerry Couch received All-Region, All-Louisiana and All-American recognition, while Merrifield and Hunter Tabb were named to the National Gold Glove team. Merrifield was later awarded the NJCAA Division II National Defensive Player of the Year, the fourth Bengal all-time to receive that honor.