There was little fanfare at the site of Eunice’s 13-1 run-rule victory Tuesday over Northwest to maintain its two-game District 5-3A lead.
However, when the Bobcats returned home there was a surprise waiting, one befitting someone that had just reached a significant milestone in their coaching career.
In this case, Eunice baseball coach Scott Phillips, who has coached the Bobcats for the past 22 seasons, was the guest of honor after winning his 500th game.
“I never expected it,” said Phillips, who spent the first two years of his head coaching career at St. Louis Catholic and was an assistant for a year at Eunice. “My wife, my mom, friends and coaches were all there. A lot of people do it for a lot of years and don’t accumulate that many (wins). I’m just happy to be where I am. It’s a great a place to be.”
Phillips said he was aware of the impending landmark and in keeping with his routine for such moments, pulled aside one of the baseballs used in the game and labeled it “Win No. 500”. He autographed it, got both of his sons to sign and placed it in a ball rack at home, joining the other four that represent each 100-win interval of his career.
“As a coach, there’s things you keep track of such, as playoff appearances and big wins,” said Phillips, now 500-248 in his career. “I love what I do. I’ve always felt I was put on this earth to do that.”
Phillips, a 1986 graduate of Eunice and then Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette), was quick to deflect the credit for his success, starting with the strict work ethic he said he inherited from his parents Thomas and Dean Phillips.
That foundation’s served Phillips well in his ability to get his players to play the game the right way, a fundamental approach centered on giving maximum effort at practice and in games.
“I feel our kids are hard-nosed,” Phillips said. “We don’t often get the blue-chipper (college recruits). The players buy into that work ethic that we as coaches put forth. They know we’re going to push them and get on them. They have to get after it.”
Eunice (20-5) is currently riding an 11-game win streak, one that’s been rooted in outstanding pitching and improved hitting.
Led by ace senior right-hander Caleb Taylor (7-2), the Bobcats have limited their opposition to two runs or less in nine of their past 11 games.
Taylor and Austin Manuel combined on a two-hitter against Northwest, with Taylor allowing a hit over three innings, and Manuel yielding a hit over his two-inning stint.
Eunice can clinch a share of the league title Thursday at home against Church Point (7-12, 4-3), capping what would mark a 22nd straight playoff appearance under Phillips and the 26th consecutive for the school.
The unsuspecting Phillips stepped almost into an atmosphere that rivaled a birthday party and family reunion with the number of well-wishers gathered in the team’s locker room to take part in the 500th- win festivity.
There was plenty of food and dessert to commemorate the occasion and nostalgia that included one of his favorite keepsakes that had actually improved in value.
Phillips explained that he kept a gray Eunice High jersey that had debuted in 2000 in his coaching locker and never noticed that it went missing.
It was returned to Phillips on Tuesday evening covered in signatures from a host of his former players, highlighted by the autographs of his two sons Austin, a freshman baseball player at Eunice, and Dru.
“I’m going to get some more former players to sign it and make a shadow box,” Phillips said. “I would have been happy with a baseball and No. 500 and some signatures on it. But when I saw my two sons signed, “Congratulations dad, we love you.’ That hit really home because it’s about your family.”