Kevin Foote and Tim Buckley take a look at why the UL Baseball team is having trouble winning on Sundays. David D’Aquin, email@example.com
When former St. Thomas More standout Mason Templet signed with the LSU Tigers in 2016 after his stellar career with the Cougars that included two state titles, he had no way of knowing he’d be one of the top hitters for the LSUE Bengals in 2018.
Of course, Templet didn’t know he’d only get six at-bats in five games as a true freshman with the Tigers in 2017.
And he didn’t know that he’d injure his wrist after just “20-something” games in summer ball in Danville, Illinois and require surgery.
So when it was time for fall scrimmage time at LSU, Templet just wasn’t ready.
“It was kind of tough for me because I hadn’t hit in probably three months,” Templet said. “My first day back was the start of the scrimmages and I didn’t perform very well in those.”
So when the decision was made to get his swing back at LSUE, where he transferred just prior to the spring semester.
At first, there was a natural transition period. But once Templet got comfortable again at the plate, he’s been on fire.
Templet is currently the second-leading hitter on the Bengals, who just tied the program’s record for regular-season wins and enters the 2018 NJCAA Region 23 Tournament starting Wednesday as the No. 1 seed with a 50-5 record.
“Starting out, he had to knock the rust off,” LSUE coach Jeff Willis said. “He needed to get at-bats under his belt. But in about two or three weeks, he kind of got into a groove. If you really look at what he’s done over the past 30 to 35 games, he’s hitting well over .400 during that time.”
For the season, Templet is now hitting .385 in 161 at-bats with 21 doubles, five homers, 57 RBIs and 22 stolen bases.
Eventually, the rust wore off and Templet’s confidence returned during his first full season of baseball since the spring of 2016 at St. Thomas More.
“The key was probably just getting my self-confidence back and believing in myself again as a player,” Templet said. “Just getting my two feet under me again. I just kind of took over when I got that feeling of confidence back again.”
Although it took a little while for Templet’s comfort level in the box to arrive, he immediately saw some familiar faces in the Bengals’ dugout.
“Honestly, right away I felt like I was part of the team,” Templet said, “because I had played with multiple people on the team before I ever got to the team either in summer ball or just growing up.”
It also didn’t take Willis very long to determine Templet was going to be a good fit on his roster.
“Anytime that a coach brings somebody in at semester break like we did, you have to do your due diligence and find out if he’s going to fit in with your team and the personnel that you have,” Willis said. “And also the mindset of your team.
“I wasn’t concerned because we had gotten nothing but glowing reviews on his work ethic and on how hard he wanted to play. And there was no question about his talent level, so he fit really well into our club chemistry-wise.”
Willis was even less concerned when he quickly noticed Templet didn’t mind getting his hands dirty.
“He was one of the first guys to grab a rake and to grab a hula hoe and went to work on doing field work,” Willis said. “For a guy like that coming from a program where they have a full grounds crew, when I saw that in him, I knew it was going to be a pretty good match.”
In addition to his red-hot hitting, Templet provides a ton of versatility for the Bengals with the ability to play left or right in the outfield and first or second base in the infield.
“Having a guy who can do four different things out there allows us to create different opportunities for other personnel on our team,” Willis said. “Not too many times do you get a guy who can do all of that and do it pretty well. So that’s been a huge addition to our team to have a guy who is really hot in the game, because that guy may only be able to play one position, whereas Mason can play utility.”
Naturally, with his swing back, Templet has become attractive to Division I programs again. He’s recently committed to the UL Ragin’ Cajuns.
Willis is convinced UL fans will like what Templet brings to the table.
“The plate discipline,” Willis explained. “It’s the strike-zone awareness and plate discipline. He’s able to hit to all fields. He stays inside the baseball and he stays through it. Anytime you can do that and can create backspin to all fields, you’re going to have a chance to hit for a high average.
“Even his home run totals aren’t indicative to how well he’s hit. He’s had conditions that just weren’t conducive to hitting home runs, hitting into some winds that were pushing in at 20 to 30 miles per hour at times. So he could easily have double digit home runs right now with an average that’s well over .400.”
So although a quick stop in Eunice might not have been in Templet’s plans when he left St. Thomas More, it’s certainly worked out better than he ever expected.
“If anything, it’s been better than I expected it to be,” Templet said. “I knew it was a really good program with a lot of great people involved, but whenever I got there, I just realized how great the people were involved there. I’ve just really enjoyed getting to meet them and I’ve really enjoyed the whole experience.”
NJCAA Region 23 Tournament
(May 16-20, Bengal Stadium in Eunice)
Noon – Meridian (36-11) vs. Itawamba (32-15)
3 p.m. – Pearl River (37-9) vs. Miss. Gulf Coast (34-14)
6 p.m. – LSUE (50-5) vs. Hinds (28-19)
Noon – Game 2 vs. Game 3 losers
3 p.m. – Game 2 winner vs. Game 1 loser
6 p.m. – Game 1 vs. Game 3 winners
Noon – Game 4 winner vs. Game 6 loser
3 p.m. – Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner
6 p.m. – Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 loser
3 p.m. – Championship Game
1 p.m. – Championship Game (if necessary)