Significance. Fans banged on the outfield wall of J.C. Love Field while Hunter Wells trotted around the bases after his second homer of the regional opener, and that’s when it hit me. This Louisiana Tech baseball team was worthy.
The Bulldogs deserved a long line of students that waited hours for the gates to open. (Louisiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs joined others in handing out donuts to those faithful fans Saturday morning.)
This baseball team earned a crowd that would leap to its feet and throw its hands in the air when Endor’s “Pump It Up” reverberated through the newly reconstructed walls of Pat Patterson Park.
And it earned a standing ovation at the very end when the Bulldogs ran out of magic and NC State reigned victorious in the Ruston regional.
Before there was sadness, disappointment and a well-earned tip of the cap from the fans, there was the inextinguishable fire of a team that thrived under the brightest lights we’d ever seen in Ruston last Friday night.
In their element on a night where the Diamond Dogs’ hosted their very first NCAA Regional, Louisiana Tech exhibited a confidence that could be likened to Tom Brady making his 10th Super Bowl start.
The game virtually started with a Wells homer from the right side of the plate in the first inning and culminated with his second from the left side in the eighth inning.
Yes indeed, the crown pumped it up all night long for an 18-2 statement victory. But that was only the beginning.
After Wells’ record-breaking 9-RBI performance, which also served as his official coronation as the school’s all-time hit king (272), Louisiana Tech suffered its first loss of the regional to the Wolfpack, making each game the rest of the way a do-or-die scenario.
The Bulldogs lived off of dingers (four) against Alabama in an elimination game on Sunday. And Parker Bates kept that theme going with two home runs to pace the Bulldogs with a 4-0 lead in an elimination game Sunday night.
But this isn’t Hollywood. Yes, scriptwriters would love to manifest a movie where a team overcomes the devastation of a tornado ripping through a campus and close-knit community like Ruston only to find those boys turn to men and bring a championship back to town. It would’ve been perfect. Too perfect actually. But the reality was NC State was hotter and those bats were scorching. The Wolfpack averaged 10 runs per game in the regional over the weekend, beating Louisiana Tech (twice) and Alabama by a combined score of 30-11.
Tech’s losses do not diminish the accomplishments of hosting an NCAA regional, playing for a Conference-USA Championship or winning a division title. Burroughs and his staff built something that local college baseball fans were clearly starving for, and with players like Taylor Young and Steele Netterville set to return, perhaps this success is here to stay.
In a lot of ways this feels like a baseball renaissance in Northeast Louisiana. The way this team played throughout the weekend will forever impact the way we think of Louisiana Tech baseball. Fun seasons and tornado damage are a thing of the past. Dingers and sellouts are the new descriptors. And if Burroughs and his club keep this up, it’ll be the new norm.