The fact that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette baseball team reached its second straight NCAA super regional is part of the lure for LSU-Eunice’s Steven Sensley wanting to embark on a career with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
There’s also the two-fold opportunity for Sensley to improve as a player and serve as a vital part of an aggressive offense that could be a custom fit for his powerful left-handed bat and athleticism on the base paths.
“That’s what making me kind of lean toward going there,” said Sensley, a graduate of University High. “I want to have that Omaha experience, and I think next year’s team could be able to get there.”
Before you can cast Sensley’s name on a UL-Lafayette lineup card in 2016, though, keep in mind the role professional baseball will play in 6-foot-2, 220-pounder’s decision.
On the heels of a first-team NJCAA All-America season for LSU-Eunice, Sensley was recently drafted in the 38th round by the Tampa Rays and 1,138th overall — more of a result of his asking price than his ability.
“Skill-set wise, he definitely has top 10-round ability,” LSU-Eunice coach Jeff Willis said. “Any scout would tell you that. But there were also signability concerns. I think his approach and what he wants to do by going to UL-Lafayette played into the mix.”
Tampa plans to track Sensley during his participation during the Northwoods League, where he’ll play for either the Wilmar (Minnesota) Stingers or Wisconsin Woodchucks. His departure for the summer wood-bat league was delayed last week by a hamstring pull in workouts, leaving him just over a three-week window before the July 15 deadline for clubs to sign their draft picks.
“They want to see how I do and how I hit with the wood bats,” Sensley said. “They’ll wait and make an offer. It’s going to be a big decision, but I’m not lowering my number just to go play professional ball. I’m kind of looking forward to being a Cajun, but if they make an offer I can’t resist, then I’ll probably sign.”
Sensley was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 33rd round out of U-High but signed with LSU-Eunice, where he opted to redshirt in 2014.
“It was tough not being able to play, but it was actually my choice,” Sensley said. “I knew my time would come. I focused on getting physically stronger and faster, becoming a better player and preparing myself and being able to produce.”
Willis credited Sensley’s play in last summer’s Northwoods League with the Kenosha Kingfish, where he batted .300, as a catalyst in his breakout season.
“When he showed up in the middle of August, there was a big difference in who he was from April or May of last year. And it kept getting better throughout the fall,” Willis said. “He needed at-bats and needed to play. He needed to fail sometimes, and he needed to succeed.”
Sensley, who play first and right field, batted third and fourth for LSU-Eunice and finished with a .374 average. He ranked third nationally in both homers (21) and RBIs (80). And he led the Bengals in hits (76), on-base percentage (.466) and slugging percentage (.778).
“I’m still in awe of the season I had,” said Sensley, who homered a career-high seven times his final year at U-High. “At the midway point, I didn’t think I was going to reach 21 home runs. I just kept playing, and it all fell into place. I just played the game, and it happened.”
Sensley homered once through his first 13 games but picked up his pace considerably during the second half of the regular season and into the postseason.
Sensley batted .390 over his last 21 games, a stretch that included 10 home runs, five doubles and 36 RBIs, while the Bengals were en route to winning the Region 23 tournament. They avenged an earlier loss to Western Oklahoma State College in the NJCAA Division II World Series with a 16-1 victory in the final.
Sensley hit .286 in the World Series with three homers and 10 RBIs, including three RBIs in the title game.
“That’s part of the reason I came to LSU-Eunice,” Sensley said. “I wanted to win a national championship, and it was a great feeling. It was great doing it with my teammates. I made some great long-time friends.”