Baseball: Former colleagues hope for reunion in College World Series
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 4, 2015
If the UL and Maryland baseball teams had both won their NCAA Super Regionals last year, the Ragin’ Cajuns and Terrapins would have met in the 2014 College World Series.
Instead, UL fell to Ole Miss, Maryland lost to Virginia and a meeting between Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux and Terps coach John Szefc never did materialize.
It still could happen this year, though.
UL opens play on Saturday night at the NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional against No. 2 national seed LSU. Maryland opens plays against Virginia on Friday in the Charlottesville Super Regional.
Robichaux and Szefc, his assistant for six seasons at UL from 2003 until 2008, were in touch after their teams won Regionals earlier this week, with UL beating Rice in the Houston Regional championship game and Maryland beating host and No. 1 national seed UCLA in the Los Angeles Regional title game.
"We texted each other (Monday) night, actually, and congratulated each other," Robichaux said.
The two have maintained regular contact, and the Cajun coach would love to visit with Szefc in Omaha, Nebraska, the site of this year’s College World Series.
First, though, there’s business to attend to.
"He’s been sending pictures all year of his little boys in the dugout with him and everything," Robichaux said. "So, we’re proud of John. John was a good coach.
"I’m glad, and hopefully he can punch his ticket. It won’t be easy for him either this weekend. There will be nothing easy for nobody."
It’s been more than a decade since the benches cleared and there was some pushing and shoving when UL and LSU got together for the 2002 Baton Rouge Regional.
"Hopefully we all learned a lesson from that," Robichaux said. "We are two higher institutions of learning. So, we should be able to learn from it.
"A lot of that, too, is your players. Every coach will tell you, from (LSU) Coach (Paul) Mainieri to myself to any coaches: Certain guys can bring it up a level. But I think their team plays with class. We’re gonna go down there and play with class.
"I’ve told our players a thousand times: The difference between class and a– is two letters," Robichaux added. "And we’re gonna keep the c and l in it all weekend, and just play good, quality baseball. I think that’s what Paul (Mainieri) and them are gonna do."
UL beat Tulane and beat LSU before dropping two to LSU in the 2002 Regional.
The ugly game included perceived over-celebration after an LSU home run, an emptying of the dugouts, warnings, a retaliatory hit-batter pitch, Cajun ejections and an LSU bat that somehow flew into the UL dugout.
The two teams intentionally didn’t play for a few years, but they’ve met several times since, including once during the regular and in an LSU win that knocked UL out of the 2013 Baton Regional.
"The past is the past," Robichaux said. "I know we’ve already prepared our players for it – to not answer questions, to leave it alone when somebody tries to bring it back up. It’s a non-issue for us.
"I think both of us are gonna go out there and play really hard, and if it gets to the edge of the envelope I know Paul (Mainieri) will take care of his guys and I will take care of mine, and we’ll leave it to playing baseball.
"They’re a good ballclub," he added, "and it’s honor and a privilege to go down there and play in those conditions, and both teams need to make the state of Louisiana proud by playing good baseball."
UL designated hitter Tyler Girouard, a fifth-year senior, was named Thursday to the third team of the Capital One Academic All-American Division I team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
The only other Cajuns to earn baseball Academic All-American status were Kevin Cantrelle in 1998 and Tommy Bates in 1991.
Girouard, a Teurlings Catholic High product, is hitting .335 with a team-high 18 doubles, three homers and 30 RBI. A sports management graduate currently enrolled in UL’s MBA program, he has a 3.62 cumulative GPA.
"I think this is an enormous award for (Girouard)," Robichaux said, "because it’s not only what he has done on the field as an athlete, but he is being rewarded for what he has done in the classroom."