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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Jace Conrad of ULL fields and tosses the ball to first base Saturday against Ole Miss. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)

Jace Conrad of ULL fields and tosses the ball to first base Saturday against Ole Miss. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)

Even in defeat, Cajuns toast of their town

Last Modified: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 11:11 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

LAFAYETTE — Hotty Toddy, Gosh … aw shucks.

A night that started with high hopes and extreme expectations ended with bitter disappointment and helplessness.

The Ragin’ Cajuns, the top-ranked team in the nation, are finished.

Their season was officially put to rest by a band of Rebels from Ole Miss who spoiled all the fun this weekend had brought.

Holt Perdzock’s 3-run pinch-hit triple in the top of the ninth will be remembered as the final nail in the Cajun coffin.

Yet this was really defeat by a thousand cuts, not just one sledgehammer to the head.

What made matters worse is the Cajun faithful, the very people who had celebrated their victories and enjoyed this crazy ride all season long, had to endure what amounted to a Rebel victory lap in the top of the ninth inning. Each run scored another dagger to their hearts.

Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux tried to push back the tide wave of Rebel runs by using eight pitchers on the night. It only made the inevitable outcome take longer.

If you use eight pitchers in a deciding game, you really don’t have one you believe in.

Meanwhile, the Rebels poured it on late, running away with the game 10-4, which sent a few of the fans able to get a ticket into the night early.

The final score did not reflect how this game was played for the better part of eight innings, but it did showcase the true difference between these two teams.

Ole Miss had enough arms to stop any big Cajun rally. Lafayette did not.

“I’m proud of our players, what they accomplished this year and what they gave us,” Robichaux said. “The way they fought all season long and what they accomplished. I’m just proud of this group.”

In the end the Cajuns, a team that had fought to prove itself among college’s elite baseball teams, simply didn’t have enough bullets. They had fired all theirs to keep things close early, so the chamber was empty at the end.

It’s a tough way to end what had been a glorious run.

All the tailgating, crawfish and libations that were swallowed down by Cajun Nation didn’t go to waste. But now the leftovers can be used to help drowned out the sorrow of an opportunity lost.

The last one to leave the “Tigue” Monday can get the lights, this party is over.

After a school-record 58 victories, it’s the one these Cajuns could not get that will be remembered the most.

At least for now.

That may not seem fair, but when you set the bar so high the fall can be pretty steep.

Louisiana-Lafayette had done just that, entering the postseason as one of the NCAA tournament’s top seeds.

They had the credentials to prove their worth as well, even if some didn’t believe the level of competition they played during the year warranted such a lofty position.

Yet their these guys were, one win away from Omaha with two chances after winning the series opener Saturday. They had everything going for them, home cooking, wild crowd and momentum.

They just didn’t have enough to get over the hump.

“I will remember the team, the unity, the passion I will never forget it,” ULL outfielder Seth Harrison said.

So instead of last night ending with a wild pile of Cajuns on the mound, it was the Rebels who leapt into each other’s arms for joy.

That is perhaps the most bitter of pills to swallow for a team full of grinders that had raised the imagination of what could be for a city and maybe even entire region.

Their fans responded, filling the parking lot early and staying late.

Many weren’t ready to see the season end either, sticking around for a proper send off of their heroes.

More than a few of these folks never got close to getting a ticket inside the stadium. They stayed by their cars and watched on television, just wanting to be part of the action.

A bunch of them stayed long after the game, willing to raise a final glass, mug, bottle or can to their boys.

Even in defeat this Cajun team proved to be the toast of their town.

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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