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Baseball: UL fans all in – for better or for worse

Katie de la Rosa, The Advertiser, June 9, 2014

A fan pumps up the crowd as UL plays Ole Miss Sunday.(Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

Ole Miss broke open a pitcher’s duel in the eighth inning Sunday — and broke the Ragin Cajuns’ dreams of an NCAA Super Regional sweep.

Mississippi’s 5-2 win sets up tonight’s 6 p.m. deciding game at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field.

For those who bleed vermilion and blanc, the potentially decisive game against one of the best teams in the nation Sunday night meant no more than any of the 66 that came before it.

"We’ve always come to the games, always been behind this team," said UL alumna Sarah Lopez, whose father is a member of the Cajun Cooking Club, whose mother is a professor and whose two siblings are fellow graduates.

"It certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re winning now, though," she said with a laugh.

The Cajuns beat the Ole Miss Rebels 9-5 Saturday in the first game of Lafayette Super Regional, but it’s the loyal support that’s genetic in generations across Acadiana that has earned the UL fan base almost as much national acclaim as the team it cheers. Rooting for the Cajuns in good times and in bad is like making a gumbo in cold seasons and in hot — instincts indigenous to the peoples south of Interstate 10.

"Those are our boys," said UL assistant psychology professor Emily Sandoz. "Yeah, we support them when they’re winning, but even when they’re not, we stand behind them like their our own family."

During this Super Regional — the first UL has hosted — Sandoz had "family" in the visitors’ dug out, too. She received her bachelor’s and master’s at UL, but she earned her doctorate at Ole Miss.

"I just want for them to both play well, for them to both play a game they can be proud of," the professor said, wearing a UL T-shirt.

That sentiment is shared even among the most fiercely loyal UL fans. The unique hospitality with which they warmly welcome visitors at Moore Field separates them from those of bigger name schools — like, for example, Ole Miss, whose fans known for greeting guests with "beer showers" at Swayze Field, epitomize the notorious reputation of SEC fans.

"Everyone here has been nothing but sweet and kind," said Ole Miss graduate and fan Paula Dickson, as she and her husband, David, stood outside the Tigue before Sunday night’s match-up. "It’s much different here, though."

The Dicksons, Ole Miss baseball season-ticket holders for 20 years, said the Tigue — which seats 3,755 but often holds more than 4,000 — is considerably smaller than any SEC baseball stadium, and Paula Dickson said Swayze’s student section is "far more distinct."

Even still, she admitted that UL’s fans "undoubtedly" helped their team move within one game of their second ever College World Series berth.

"I don’t believe there’s no crying in baseball," Paula Dickson said about her team’s loss Saturday night. "I cried all night."

For twins Clay and Edgar Judice, though, it’s not the size of UL’s crowd that matters but the intelligence.

"We’re baseball smart," said Edgar Judice, who graduated from UL with his twin in 2001. "We have a high IQ in this game."

Clay Judice said he and his brother will "absolutely" travel to Omaha if UL advances again. They made the 17-hour drive back in 2000.

The twins said the best part about winning, though, is the long overdue recogition of Cajuns fans.

"Who we are, what we do, we’re not trying to prove anything," Clay Judice said. "That’s just us being real. That’s just the Lafayette community being real."