EUNICE — Although Steve Sensley made his share of tackles as a high school linebacker, he didn’t let that success distort the truer picture of his athletic future.
Baseball, not football, Sensley figured, offered the best path for his athletic future.
From the looks of things, his decision now appears accurate.
Sensley could become one of the state’s top selections next month when Major League Baseball holds its annual first-year players draft.
The redshirt freshman outfielder-first baseman at LSU-Eunice has also signed with UL-Lafayette to play the next three seasons.
Sensley, who is batting .373 on a team with a .323 batting average, will also be one of the Bengals’ major offensive weapons during the LSUE-hosted Region 23 Division II National Junior College Athletic Association Tournament.
LSUE (41-9) ranked No. 2 in the Division II national baseball poll, plays at 7 p.m. Thursday’s in a first-round game against Northwest Community College (32-15).
The opening round 3 p.m. contest Thursday features top tournament seed Hinds Community College (41-5) meeting East Mississippi Community College (29-16).
From what major league scouts are telling him, Sensley has a chance to be drafted as high as the fifth round.
LSUE coach Jeff Willis said Sensley, who has hit a school-record 17 home runs and has 63 RBIs, should definitely be picked before the top 10 rounds are completed.
“The draft is something that I haven’t worried too much about so far,” Sensley said. “I’ve talked to some (major league) scouts, and in those conversations they have talked to me about what it’s going to take to get me to sign.
“One thing that has happened is (the draft) has come up on me a lot faster than I expected.”
Willis said Sensley, who was picked in the pro draft out of Baton Rouge’s University High, came to the LSUE program as a talented prospect who has refined his baseball skills as this season has progressed.
“(Sensley) is a player who has always had the raw talent and the necessary skill sets and tools that it takes to be a great player,” Willis said. “Since he’s been here, he has just developed those tools more and now he has positioned himself to be one of the best players in the country.
“The (major league) draft is never an exact science and I feel that if he signs with a team, it will depend upon things such as what type of signing bonus is offered, things like that.”
Sensley said in high school, UL-Lafayette and Memphis have shown interest in having play football, but baseball is a game that has remained close to his heart.
“I’ve always felt I had a better future in baseball,” he said. “I felt it was also a sport I could play at a higher caliber, and it’s also a game that I have always loved.
Sensley said he was attracted to LSUE’s baseball program which has won several national titles under Willis, who came there in 2006. That string of championships and Willis’ reputation for developing players during a two-year span, was an attractive combination, Sensley said.
“The overall tradition of the program is what got me,” he said. “It’s also no secret that I went here to become draft eligible from my freshman to sophomore years. That’s the same way I feel about (UL-Lafayette). It’s the overall tradition of their program.
“Working under coach Willis, he’s given me the discipline that I needed as a person and he has helped me grow up more. He’s also developed me as a player. As far as my future after this year I am not close minded about what to do. It’s a win-win for me right now. I can sign with a (major league) team or I can go to (UL-Lafayette) and maybe raise my draft stock there.”
LSUE teammate David Lafleur said Sensley has a rare combination of speed and power.
“He is so much a big part of our lineup. He has that really good speed, which is quite something for a player who is 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds,” Lafleur said. “When the scouts came here to time us on the bases, he ran a 6.6 second in his 60’s, which for something his size, is really off the charts.”
Lafleur said he is also impressed with Sensley’s bat speed ability.
“I’ve seen him get fooled on a pitch and still hit it out of the yard. He has a hard time hitting doubles, because he is so much of a threat to hit it out the park,” he said.