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Baseball: Lafayette Little League team members relive thrills of 2005, 2011 World Series trips

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, August 20, 2021

Click here for the LLWS video and photo gallery  https://www.theadvertiser.com/story/sports/college/ul/2021/08/20/lafayette-louisiana-little-league-world-series-2021-cajuns-hunter-bergeron-jace-conrad-memories/8192488002/

Hunter Bergeron had a blast playing on the 2011 Lafayette Little League all-star team that made it to the world series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Ten years later, another club from Lafayette has made the journey.

“That summer was one for the books, for real,” said Bergeron, a St. Thomas More High product who now is a tight end for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

“We were (practicing) every day during the week. Sometimes we’d have two-a-days; in the morning we’d hit ground balls and field ground balls, and later that afternoon we’d go back and hit (batting practice).”

‘Punch somebody in the mouth’

Jace Conrad played shortstop on the 2005 Lafayette team that advanced to Williamsport, a club that also featured current Washington Nationals outfielder Andrew Stevenson, who played at St. Thomas More and then LSU.

“The funnest part was me was getting to experience … a unique venue at such a young age,” said Conrad, a Lafayette High product who became an All-American second baseman on UL’s 2014 Super Regional team. “(Also) playing on TV as a young kid is a cool deal.”

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For Conrad, who played three minor-league seasons after Tampa Bay took him in the 2014 MLB Draft’s 13th round, the craziest memory is when one of the international-team players, Jurickson Profar — now with the San Diego Padres —  nabbed his Coke from a vending machine.

“Took off running,” said Conrad, who’s in the commercial insurance business. “Now he’s in the big leagues and I’m sitting here in Lafayette.”

Conrad sent this year’s team an inspirational video before its Louisiana state-championship game win.

“I got a little fired up in the video, unintentionally,” Conrad said.

“I just tell them to go out there and punch somebody in the mouth.”

The Lafayette boys have been watching it throughout their run to Williamsport.

“They repeat it every day,” team manager Steven Menard said. “It fired them up.”

‘A fun time’

Southwestern Regional-champion Lafayette opens Friday in Williamsport against Midwest runner-up South Dakota (4 p.m. CT, ESPN).

In 2011, Bergeron recalls an opening LLWS win over Georgia, followed by an elimination loss to Montana and an exhibition loss to a team from Chinese Taipei.

He learned life lessons that summer, including the power for perseverance playing for a team dubbed Cardiac Cajuns.

“There were so many games we were down,” said Bergeron, who pitched and played third base or in the outfield.

“In the regional championship, we were down five runs … and we ended up pushing through.”

Once in Williamsport, Bergeron loved seeing mountains for the first time and spending an off-day swimming and fishing. He enjoyed meeting kids from around the world. He was blown away by how many fans were there, many requesting pictures and autographs.

What Bergeron treasures most, though, is simply the time spent with friends. Usually they were playing ball. Otherwise, Xbox.

One teammate was Crowley’s Haden Erbe, who went on to pitch for UL, West Virginia and UNO.

“It was a fun time, being with all my buddies,” Bergeron said. “We spent all day with each other, every day.”