Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, The Ouachita Citizen will talk with baseball and softball coaches to reflect on the recent stoppage in play. Though highly doubtful, we’ll pose the question to coaches on whether or not they’ve experienced anything crazier than COVID-19 postponing (and possibly canceling) spring ball.
Wade Simoneaux is like everyone else in the state — the West Monroe head baseball coach has never experienced anything like the coronavirus pandemic shutting down schools and businesses across the state.
And in his long tenured coaching career, he can’t begin to top the craziness of suspending spring sports and possibly canceling the season altogether. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try.
For Simoneaux there are two seasons that stick out the most over the years. In college, it’s pretty simple. What could possibly top a “once in a lifetime” trip to Omaha in 2000? And as far as high school goes, the 2017 Rebels’ 28-game win streak will certainly stand the test of time.
Long before Simoneaux coached the Rebels, he was down south serving as the top assistant coach for the late great UL-Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux. In 1999, Simoneaux stood next to Robichaux, as the Ragin’ Cajuns faced Rice in the Super Regionals. The Cajuns got the best of the Owls in a 12-8 victory in Game 1.
“We beat them in the Astrodome and our players were celebrating like we were going to Omaha,” Simoneaux said.
In the best of three series, though, Rice recovered and took Game 2 and Game 3 to snatch that once upon a lifetime trip to Omaha. But for Simoneaux and the Cajuns, all it did was postpone the inevitable.
The following year, the Cajuns swept a regional held at Moore Field in Lafayette before having to face the No. 1 seeded South Carolina Gamecocks in the Super Regionals. The Cajuns lost 6-3 in the first game of the series, and that’s when Simoneaux noticed something.
“They started celebrating, partying and talking about hotel reservations,” Simoneaux said. “I looked at Robichaux and said, ‘That kind of looks familiar, huh?’”
The Cajuns beat South Carolina in the next two games to earn the right to play in Omaha. Simoneaux said he could remember it like it was yesterday, walking through Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium for the first time and having a shortage of balls thanks to all the kids trying to get their hands on some.
ULL lost to Stanford before beating San Jose State and Clemson and ultimately falling to Stanford again.
“We had to beat Stanford twice for an opportunity to play LSU,” Simoneaux said. “It’s something I will never forget. I have several pictures throughout the house, so I think about it every day.”
Simoneaux admitted he also thinks about that 2017 high school season that saw the Rebels 28-game win streak end in a state championship game against Central in Sulphur.
“That team deserved a ring,” Simoneaux said. “We averaged over 10 runs a game. It really is a shame that team didn’t get one. Not just because of the talent we had, but the guys had the right mentality. We had Sulphur coaches bring their team and other teams come and watch us play because they thought we played the game the right way. That’s rewarding as a coach.”
West Monroe’s 2017 squad didn’t lack any star power to say the least. Slade Bolden is now a contributor for the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, Taylor Young had his junior season at Louisiana Tech interrupted after boasting a .452 on-base percentage through his terrific collegiate career and Jacob Pearson is still working his way up the Major League Baseball ranks after becoming a third-round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. Just to name a few. 22
“The most rewarding thing for me is to see these guys get an opportunity to play past high school,” Simoneaux said. “That’s my goal. I’d love to win state championship every season, but a lot of things have to fall your way. It’s great to see these guys go off and do great things.”