Appreciation Day at the ballpark: McNeese’s Hill thanks UL-Lafayette’s Deggs for help

Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press

When the coaches meet at home plate tonight to exchange lineups, McNeese State’s Justin Hill will have a gift for Matt Deggs, his Louisiana-Lafayette counterpart.

Actually it is more of a return gift. Hill will give back a key to Deggs’ home.

For about two weeks after Hurricane Laura ripped through Lake Charles, Hill and his wife found comfort in Deggs’ Lafayette house.

“I can’t thank him and his family enough for what they did for us,” Hill said. “They opened up their home, made us feel welcome. We are forever indebted to him and his family.”

After riding out the storm in Lake Charles, Hill needed to find a place to stay after his house was damaged. He was hoping for the use of the ULL clubhouse.

“I wanted a place close that we could sleep on some cots and take a warm shower,” Hill said. “A place were we could get back and forth from until our house was ready and we had running water.”

Deggs would hear nothing of that. Instead he made his home open to Hill.

“I told him no way,” Deggs said. “He had to stay at our house. I felt like it was the least we could do. I thought it was a no-brainer.”

The Deggs went so far as to do their guests’ laundry and give them packed lunches for their trips back and forth.

“They did all that and never asked them to, they just did it to be nice,” Hill said. “We really just wanted a place to sleep for two or three days, but we go so much more from them. It was amazing.”

The two had battled over the years on the field and in recruiting wars, and they knew each other well, but this was unexpected.

“The rivalry is all out the window at that point,” said Deggs. “You just want to help somebody. A lot of people were hurting and this was the least we could do.”

It made a lasting impression on the McNeese coach.

“It was just unbelievable,” Hill said. “I can’t say enough about what it means to me and my wife.”

After the key is returned, it will be back to business tonight as each team looks to turn things around with first pitch set for 6 p.m. at Tigue Moore Field.

Both teams are looking to break four-game losing streaks with the midweek game. McNeese (18-18) dropped a weekend series at Sam Houston State while the Ragin’ Cajuns (20-15) were swept by South Alabama.

The Cowboys won the first time the teams met this year, 4-3, at Joe Miller Ballpark. Hill was not at that game, sitting out after testing positive for COVID-19.

Jonathan Ellison and Isaac Duplechain combined to strike out nine and walk none over six innings.

Clayton Rasbeary had three hits, including a triple, to lead McNeese. Designated hitter Ben Fitzgerald had two hits to lead ULL.

McNeese will return home for a three-game non-league series with Texas-Arlington starting Friday. The Cajuns will be back on the road for a Sun Belt Conference series at Arkansas-Little Rock.””

McNeese State’s Justin Hill says he wants to thank Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Matt Deggs for supporting him and his family while the Cowboys head baseball coach repaired his home after a pair of hurricanes.

Rick Hickman / American Press

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