Louisiana Rallies Past Georgia Southern to Win Sun Belt Championship, Punch Ticket to NCAA Tournament
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajun baseball team punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, rallying in dramatic fashion Sunday to defeat Georgia Southern 7-6 in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game.
Louisiana trailed 5-0 after three innings, but never wavered.
“That’s a tribute to who they are. We don’t have any tiny hearts on our team, we’ve got a bunch of big hearts. We started with 40, maybe 41 players, we’ve got 28 guys here. They went through the hardest fall I’ve put on in a long time, and it was an old school grinder because we had to get that edge back," explained head coach Matt Deggs. "The guys that are still standing are standing for a reason because they have some grit, and they drink out of that water hose and they’re not afraid to roll up their sleeves and go to work, they don’t care who gets credit.”
Relief pitcher Bo Bonds came in to slow down the Eagles offense, while the Cajuns offense came alive, collecting 8 hits and 7 runs in the final 6 innings.
In the top of the 9th, UL trailed 6-5, but tied the game on a double steal call that scored Heath Hood on a play that stood after review.
Shortly thereafter, coach Deggs approached Will Veillon in the dugout to tell him he was going to pinch hit for him.
“I wasn’t real happy with his last at-bat when he watched fast ball off the lefty, and I was going to make up my mind, I was probably going to go with Trey (LaFleur) actually, and we missed the hit and run," said Deggs. "We got a break there, then they reviewed it, and I went down and I told Will I’m about to pinch hit for you here, bud, and he just said no, you’re not, he said I’m going to get it done right here, and I said, well, prove it. And he did. Me and him had a little back-and-forth. He can give as good as he gets.”
What he gave the Cajuns was their first lead of the game, putting Louisiana up 7-6.
In the bottom of the 9th, Jake Hammond got two quick outs, but the gritty Eagles were able to chip away, loading the bases with 2 outs before Brandon Talley came in to seal it for Louisiana.
The victory was the 36th of the season for Louisiana, the number worn by the late great Tony Robichaux, former long-time coach of the Ragin' Cajuns.
"It’s been a battle, it’s been tough, man, it’s been hard on my family. We were at home in (Sam) Houston...Coach Robe and his family and the Cajun nation and everybody, all the players, they helped save us, and we had to come back here and wanted to come back here and do our part, and it has not been easy. To bear a little fruit of the work that’s gone into that from the players and coaches, these coaches have coached their butt off, our families, it’s very redemptive. Just full of joy, man, just full of joy.”
Louisiana now awaits their next destination. They'll find out tomorrow during the NCAA Selection Show scheduled for 11am central on Monday.
They will be 1 of 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament.