As fans found their seats Monday night they greeted each other with hugs and high fives. Regardless of the outcome, the third game of the Super Regional between UL and Ole Miss would be the season’s last game at Tigue Moore Field. And what a season for the Ragin’ Cajuns and their fans: a Sunbelt regular season championship, a Sunbelt tournament championship, an NCAA Regional championship, and host for the first time of an NCAA Super Regional.
The 2014 UL baseball team won 58 games, never lost two in a row, and spent weeks as the No. 1-ranked team in the country, a first for the university in any sport.
Pregame chants of “Omaha, Omaha, Omaha” reminded everyone of one final goal: the College World Series. Meanwhile Ole Miss’ players, coaches and fans had to be cringing. The Rebels last played in Omaha in 1972. If UL were to match such futility, Cajun followers could put off plans for June trips to Nebraska until 2042.
After splitting the first two games, UL fans felt confident going into the “if necessary” game. Cody Boutte (9-0, 3.09 ERA) would start for the Cajuns while Ole Miss was countering with Sam Smith (5-4, 3.39 ERA). And the Cajuns were home where the crowd would exceed capacity by over 500 people for the third consecutive night. Call the starters’ match-up a draw. After four innings the score was 3-3.
From that point UL coach Tony Robichaux sifted through his bullpen looking for lasting, effective relief. He even sent centerfielder Seth Harrison to the mound for an inning. The seven pitchers who followed Boutte issued seven walks to the 27 batters they faced. Two relievers threw only one pitch each. After the game Robichaux remarked, “[You’ve] got to make pitches when it’s time to pitch.”
Still, going into the ninth inning the Cajuns only trailed 6-4. In the top of the ninth Ole Miss loaded the bases with a hit batter, a single and a walk. Then on a full count, pinch hitter Holt Perdzock cleared the bases with a double to right field. He advanced to third on an error and later came in on a sacrifice fly for the 10-4 final.
In his postgame Robichaux said he was “proud, very proud of what our players accomplished…The guys played their hearts out. Omaha is so special because of what the eight [teams] had to endure to get there.” But, he added, “[You] don’t need Omaha to validate who you are. I’m proud because those are men out there. You’re going to live a lot longer on your moral character than being a ball player.”
When a red-eyed Seth Harrison was asked what he would remember about the 2014 season he paused, then slowly said, “The team…the unity…the passion.”
In the moment he may not have been aware the “unity and passion” he felt so strongly extended far beyond the team and the confines of The Tigue to Cajun fans everywhere.
That, too, will be remembered for a very long time to come.