LAFAYETTE, La. –- About 60 miles before you reach Lafayette on I-10 sits a college baseball stadium in Baton Rouge that will be unused this Super Regional weekend.
No baseball at Alex Box Stadium with Omaha on the line – that’s rare and weird to say out loud. But don’t mention those Tigers this weekend in Cajun Country when ULL hosts Ole Miss. The Ragin’ Cajuns are the last team standing in the state.
“There’s a lot of animosity between the two teams,” Cajuns’ fan Paul Vedrois said. “We knew at the beginning of the season that we’d be in this spot at the end of the season. I went to the game in Baton Rouge this year and they didn’t ‘Tiger Bait’ us too much because they knew we were the real deal.”ULL won the only meeting against the Tigers all the way back in February and enter this weekend with a 57-8 record. The Cajuns were awarded a higher national seed by the selection committee in this year’s NCAA tournament, too. The craziest stat? ULL hasn’t lost back-to-back games or a weekend series all year. For this year, at least, Louisiana-Lafayette is no second fiddle.
But given LSU’s history, it’s easy to see why these fans in Lafayette have a bit of a chip on their shoulders and are puffing their chests just a little bigger this time around. It’s tough not to call everyone else in college baseball a “little brother” let alone a team that sits right down the highway.
It’s not as if ULL is a nobody. The Ragin’ Cajuns have been to the College World Series once, when it went on the road to beat South Carolina in the 2000 Super Regionals. Saturday is the first time the school will host a Super Regional. And for a roadtripper who has never stepped foot in this town, it was quite the warm reception.
“We are very proud of our Cajuns,” Vedrois said. “Just look around you, between the tailgating and the food, we welcome anyone here. It’s just how we live in Lafayette.”
Vedrois’ friend Daniel Poynot says there’s a good reason why he’s so friendly.
“I kind of go out of my way to be nice to people, especially visiting people,” Poynot said. “Mainly because I’ve been to plenty of other places and not been given that hospitality. I think you’ll find that one of the things we do best – no matter how good or not so good the products on the field are – is taking care of visitors.”
Super fan “Steve” – the resident ULL baseball historian – sees plenty of similarities between the past two Ragin’ Cajuns’ teams that made it to this point.
“We had some standout guys [on the 2000 team],” Steve said. “We had a lot of seniors on that team. But we had good pitching and a good bullpen. No one ran on that outstanding catcher we had. The only guy I can remember running on him is Juan Pierre.”
But in between those 14 seasons, these rowdy, warm fans have welcomed everyone with open arms to the friendly confines of M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field. They even offer the few Ole Miss fans in attendance some cold beverages on a day that saw the heat index hit 97 degrees.
Known for their hospitality, ULL fans didn’t disappoint in getting ready for Saturday’s Game 1. And if they can win two-of-three games against the Rebels this weekend, two-of-three lifetime friends are on the fence about heading on the #RoadToOmaha. “Steve” will be there. He was in 2000 and wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world.