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Baseball: It was about more than baseball

Kristin Askelson, The Advertiser, June 11, 2014


Kristin Askelson, The Daily Advertiser’s content director, along with thousands of other fans, cheered on the Ragin’ Cajuns during the Super Regional tournament.(Photo: Contributed photo)

There are moments in life when all the pieces align to create something unexpected and unforgettable. The right circumstances and the right people combine to create something greater than the sum of its parts. For many, that’s what this year’s Ragin’ Cajuns baseball season became.

Yes, it was about baseball. Winning the Sun Belt Championship and tournament. Hosting an NCAA Regional Tournament and Super Regional. Winning 58 games — a school record — and spending weeks ranked No. 1 in the nation. Making it to Omaha.

But it was about more than baseball, too.

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The players were local kids, mostly. Jace Conrad played ball at Lafayette High School, and before that he led his Lafayette Little League team to a semifinals appearance at the 2005 Little League World Series. Ryan Leonards is from Crowley, where he led Notre Dame High School to state championships in baseball and football. Tyler Girouard played at Teurlings and led the Rebels baseball team to a 2010 state championship.

They were our kids.

The atmosphere at T. L. "Tigue" Moore field is all about family. During the national anthem, the coaches are joined on the field by their children and grandchildren. After home games, families and fans alike flood onto the turf for celebration or words of encouragement.

By extension, the loyal fans at "The Tigue" became family, too.

This group of Cajuns called themselves grinders. When their backs were against the wall, they said, "Stick with us; we’ll find a way to grind out a win."

Fans stuck with them.

They kept grinding out wins.

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VIDEO: Coach, players react to loss

Word spread, and this Ragin’ Cajun family continued to grow. This weekend, it swelled to include many more than "The Tigue" could ever hold.

Here’s how one Perfect Game sports writer Kendall Rogers described Saturday night at The Tigue: "Thousands of fans in a healthy dose of red and and black lined the streets outside the stadium. And though Ole Miss jumped to a 3-0 lead after 1½ innings, the environment and attitude inside the stadium never changed. On two-strike counts, the stadium was on its feet. After all, with this ULL offense, the Cajuns had to know it was only a matter of time before they awoke."

ESPN commentators summed it up more succinctly: "Nobody in Super Regionals has a better home-field advantage than Louisiana-Lafayette. … Ole Miss is taking on a whole city."

When the Cajuns won the opening game of the tournament Saturday night, we celebrated with them because that’s what families do.

Then baseball happened. One team peaked at exactly the right time; another didn’t.

And after Monday’s crushing loss, just one game shy of Omaha, we grieved with them. That’s what families do.

This team didn’t get to Omaha. But it wasn’t for lack of talent or trying. And it wasn’t for lack of fan support.

Baseball happens. But this year was about more than baseball.

— Kristin Askelson is content director at The Daily Advertiser, a baseball mom and a die-hard Ragin’ Cajuns fan. She can be reached at kaskelson@theadvertiser.com.