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Baseball: What lessons have the Cajuns learned from past Super Regionals?

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, June 6, 2015



UL was defeated by Ole Miss in a 2014 Super Regional in Lafayette. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook/The Advertiser)


There were two more than a decade ago, and another last year. They’re the only ones in UL baseball history. They’re NCAA Super Regionals, and the Ragin’ Cajuns had lessons to learn from all three.

Some, from 1999 and 2000, already have been applied.

Others, specifically those from last season’s best-of-three Lafayette Super Regional loss to SEC-member Ole Miss, could come in handy when the 42-21 and No. 16-ranked Cajuns visit No. 1-ranked and No. 2 national seed LSU (51-10) in a best-of-three NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional at Alex Box Stadium here.

"I think one of the biggest things we can pull from (last year’s) is, ‘Don’t let the name scare you,’ " junior catcher Nick Thurman said. "It’s LSU. Yeah, they’re good. But … last year we were kind the same team as LSU."

The Cajuns finished 58-10 last season. They were ranked a unanimous No. 1 nationally going into the 2014 postseason. They were the ones hosting the Super Regional.

Yet Ole Miss proved that even the club seemingly having everything going for it – much like LSU this season – could be knocked off.

"Don’t know let the name fool you, you know?" Thurman said.

"We’re gonna come out there; they’re just like us. They’re players, and everyone makes mistakes, everyone’s gonna get out, everyone’s gonna make big pitches. It’s just who’s gonna be most productive whenever you get in those big situations."

Evan Guillory, one of UL’s three true-freshman weekend pitching starters, said the Cajuns’ elder statesmen have prepped the youngsters on just what postseason play brings.

"A crazy crowd. A lot of hype," Guillory said. "You know, we’re playing on ESPN (networks, including ESPN2 on Saturday night). We kind of know what to expect coming into it."

All-American shortstop Blake Trahan is one of those vets.

He learned during UL’s Super Regional vs. Ole Miss just how heavy lofty expectations can be.

"I feel like a lot of the pressure is on LSU, and we can go out and play free," Trahan said. "Nobody expected us to be here anyway, you know, so we’re gonna go play our game, with the freedom of failure. So, we’re ready to go, and we’re ready to fight."

Designated hitter Tyler Girouard, a fifth-year senior, seems to agree — after dropping two-of-three to the Rebels in a best-of-three — that the key really is to be free.

"We really just got beat," Girouard said.

"You can’t go out there pressing in this spot," he added. "You know, you got yourself here. You won a Regional already, won the (Sun Belt Conference) Tournament. It’s just enjoying the moment, playing your best baseball at this time."

The Cajuns were playing awfully good ball in ’99 and 2000, and after one rough Super Regional then UL figured things out the next year and got to Omaha, Nebraska, for their first and only College World Series appearance.

They won one but dropped two at the Astrodome to Rice, which was ranked No. 1 at the time, in the ’99 Houston Super Regional.

The next season they dropped their opening Super Regional game at South Carolina, which also was ranked No. 1 at the time, but bounced back to win two and get to the 2000 CWS.

It was that next year, 2001, that Tony Robichaux —UL’s coach then, and now — learned something he applied 2015.

"The big thing that helped me coming out of last season to this season was that in … in ’99 and 2000, having that run with that team, the next year we came back and tried to make that team ‘last year’s team,’ " he said.

"I think the one good thing is we never referred back to last year at all with this (2105) team. We let them be them."

Robichaux knew right away that 2001, especially coming off the 2000 success UL, could be trouble.

He was right.

The Cajuns flopped in ’01, finishing with a losing record at 28-29.

"I think I made a bad mistake in 2001," Robichaux said.

"The first week of practice, a guy ran out there with blond hair. That’s not what got us to Omaha. They (Cajun players) dyed their hair blond, but that’s not what got us to Omaha.

"So," he added, "we put a lot of pressure on that team — unnecessary pressure — to be something that maybe they couldn’t be."

Not so in 2015.

"This year what we decided to do was stay with our original goal," Robichaux said. "Forty wins. A conference championship or a conference tournament championship. And get to a Regional. Then, from there, you’ve got to have a little luck on your side."

The Cajuns got their 40 wins, with Nos. 39, 40 and 41 coming in the Houston Regional.

They got their Sun Belt Conference Tournament title, even if they did have to go through the losers bracket and beat No. 1 seed South Alabama with Stefan Trosclair’s 12th-inning grand slam in the championship game to claim it.

They got a Regional — then swept it with one win over No. 1 Regional seed Houston and two over Rice.

Now they’re looking for that little bit of good fortune.

"It’s not an easy thing to do," Robichaux said of winning a Super Regional.

"You’re fighting the best people in the country. You’ve got to have a lot of things go right, especially when you’re on the road."

One good pitch here?

One timely pitch there?

A whole bunch of right decisions everywhere?

"That’s what it all hinges on now," said Robichaux, who acknowledges he "still" kicks himself for not having brought in then-closer Matt Plitt earlier in the one of the losses to Ole Miss.

"It’s two good teams playing," Robichaux added, "and all you want to do is try not to give anything away, you know?"