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Baseball: It’s Tigers versus Cajuns, so where’s the hate?

Glenn Guilbeau, The Advertiser, June 5, 2015


All the ingredients are in the on deck circle by the stove for a hot and hateful Super Regional between No. 2 national seed LSU and No. 3 regional seed Louisiana-Lafayette at Alex Box Stadium beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.

It will be the first All-Louisiana Super Regional in Alex Box Stadium with the two schools just 56 miles apart on Interstate 10. The recipe calls for a lot of cayenne pepper along with the following:

Big school versus smaller school.

The Cajuns want to be called the University of Louisiana or UL, or Louisiana. LSU people will fight for UL not being called Louisiana or UL to the end.

It’s flagship university versus a want-to-be flagship university.

It’s national brand-name school versus former directional school.

It’s six-time national baseball champion versus one timer in the College World Series.

There was a 600-ticket allotment for the Cajuns. The other 9,720 went to LSU, according to NCAA host rules.

But this is not Alabama vs. Auburn. The hate index is expected to be far below the heat index.

“It’s going to be huge. It’s super hyped up. It’s a sell-out. I don’t know what to compare it to. It has that feeling to it like a huge football game,” said former LSU quarterback and current LSU second baseman Jared Foster of Lake Charles. “But I don’t see a lot of hate with it. I think it’s going to be fun.”

There was a lot of bad blood when UL beat LSU and LSU beat UL twice to win an NCAA Regional at the Box in 2002. The Cajuns thought LSU celebrated a little much after a home run in the final game. There was a questionable hit batter and a bat tossed into the dugout in an accidental on purpose sort of way. There were warnings and ejections. The regular season series was ended until 2009 when new coach Paul Mainieri, who arrived just two years prior to replace Smoke Laval, mended the fences.

“Hopefully, we all learned a lesson from that,” UL coach Tony Robichaux said. “I think their team plays with class. We’re going to go down there and play with class. I’ve told our players a thousand times. The difference between class and a– is two letters. And we’re going to keep the C and L in it all weekend, and just play good, quality baseball. I think that’s what Paul and them are going to do.”

The Cajuns were ranked No. 1 in the nation more than LSU in the 2014 season and beat the Tigers, 4-1, in Alex Box Stadium in a game shortened by rain to six innings.

“They didn’t get in our face about it,” Foster said. “They were a great team last year, and they have another great team this year again.”

UL also went deeper into the NCAA postseason last year, hosting a Super Regional in which it lost the last two to Ole Miss, while LSU lost in the NCAA Regional round.

“Yeah, I pulled for them to beat Ole Miss,” said LSU center fielder Andrew Stevenson, a native of Youngsville near Lafayette who went to St. Thomas More High in Lafayette and was recruited by Robichaux. “I wanted to see them go to Omaha, but they fell a little short. I root for them when we don’t play. It’s a little different this weekend.”

Stevenson has played with Cajuns players since he was on a Lafayette team that reached the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 2005.

“I’m not surprised they’re here at all,” he said. “They’ve been recruiting the same guys in the area we have, and there are a lot of good ballplayers out of Lafayette. I knew they’d be good.”

LSU beat UL, 8-6, this season in the Pontiff Classic at Zephyr Field in Metairie. There was no bad blood before, during or after that game.

“I know some people who don’t know who to pull for in this game,” said Foster, who is from Barbe High in Lake Charles. The Tigers have three players from Barbe. The Cajuns also have three.

“What do you do there? It’s just a great game for the state,” Foster said.

“I don’t think we’re going to get into it like the fans do,” said Cajuns third baseman Tyler Girouard of Teurlings Catholic in Lafayette. “But it’s fun for us. It’s good for Louisiana, really and truly. They’re good. We’re good. That’s the only thing I think the players take out of it.”

One thing will be taken from this historic Super Regional. Louisiana will advance.

“Regardless of what happens this weekend, a Louisiana team will go to the World Series,” said LSU reliever Jesse Stallings of Grant High near Alexandria who was also recruited by Robichaux. “I think that’s pretty awesome for Louisiana baseball. It’s going to be a packed house. ULL, they have great fans. We have great fans. Put us together in a Super Regional at LSU, and I think the crowd’s going to be insane. It’ll be a hostile environment.”

But perhaps only because of crowd noise as opposed to things being thrown around the diamond.

“I know LSU fans probably will cringe when they hear me say this, but I actually like those guys,” said Mainieri, who does not like all the SEC teams and coaches. “I don’t want to say we socialize. We’ve never gone out to dinner or those type things, but if we see each other on the recruiting circuit at games, we sit down and we visit and we talk. We get along really well.”

All the “Ls” in LSU and UL may not be for love, but there is not a lot of hate either.

“It’s not a, ‘We-hate-y’all, y’all-hate-us’ kind of thing,” Girouard said. “It’s just a baseball thing. And we’ve just got to go out there and embrace the surroundings and just have fun with it.”