LAFAYETTE — The weather forecast for this weekend’s NCAA regional tournament is far from ideal, with thunderstorms predicted in the area throughout the tournament.
Tournament director John Dugas, Louisiana-Lafayette’s associate athletic director of internal operations, is well aware of the potential problem this weekend, but he’s holding out hope the fickle nature of Louisiana weather fools the prognosticators.
“Obviously it’s a big concern, especially when pretty much all week long it’s been the same 80 percent chance (of rain) on Saturday and Sunday,” Dugas said Wednesday morning. “But the way I look at that, any time they say it that early, I know it’s going to be better than that because they’re always wrong. I’m hoping we get lucky.”
The tournament is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Friday with Sam Houston State against Arizona. The Cajuns following with a game against Princeton at 7 p.m., and it is scheduled to wrap up Sunday or Monday, depending on the outcomes of the games.
The long gap between afternoon and evening games was by design, Dugas said.
“By playing at 1 and at 7 protects you in some respects from that early game if you have any delays,” Dugas said. “It gives you some cushion. And if not, it gives you the luxury of doing pregame (batting practice), warmup, in-and-out, everything, on the game field as opposed to the indoor facility.”
As tournament host, the Cajuns have the option of controlling which time slot they play in Friday. The afternoon game comes with several advantages, especially on a weekend when weather could push back the start time of the evening game.
But Dugas said Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux was more worried about holding on to the one true advantage his team has this weekend — the home fans, many of whom will work Friday afternoon.
“(Robichaux’s) first inclination is always about what’s best for our fans,” Dugas said. “He knows a 1 o’clock game on a Friday, that might limit (the fans). That’s always a consideration for him.
“Some schools do play that first game because that gives them ... a little more rest. How much serious thought he’s given to that, I’m really not sure. But I know he wants to play in front of the biggest crowd and give all our fans the best opportunity to attend our game.”
Dugas said flexible start times are not being considered for the late games — especially in the first two days of the tournament, meaning if there’s a window of good weather a few hours before a game is scheduled to start, the teams would not rush to get the game underway.
The only exception to that idea is when it comes to the deciding game of the tournament, Dugas said.
“If we know at 7 it’s hitting the fan and we know we won’t be able to play baseball, then I would say on that Sunday there would probably be a serious discussion about that,” Dugas said. “But that would go up the chain all the way.”
As a host, the Cajuns do have a couple advantages when faced with potentially inclement weather.
First, with the exception of the pitching mound, the entirety of M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field is an artificial surface, which saves time — teams don’t have to wait for a tarp to be pulled over the field, then pulled off and drained — and also doesn’t get affected by rain the same way grass does.
Second, the Cajuns have the benefit of a nearby indoor facility, which allows teams a place to warm up and be ready as soon as the field is deemed playable.
“It at least gives you the opportunity to try to stay on track if it is just some spotty weather or not an all afternoon lightning delay,” Dugas said.
Because of this, it’s not so much the rain that concerns Dugas. It’s the lightning, which carries a mandatory 30-minute delay if it strikes within eight miles of the stadium.
“Every time we get a lightning strike, we restart that 30-minute clock,” Dugas said. “We’ve been out here, even this year, where we rolled the dice and tried to play and weren’t able to. The problem with that is if you call things too early and the weather doesn’t hit, you look like an idiot.”
This weekend will be different, Dugas said, because it has to be.
“In this case, you have to play the tournament,” Dugas said. “You have to have a Lafayette regional champion that moves on to the next round.”
First two pitchers set
The Cajuns announced their pitching rotation Wednesday for the first two games of the regional tournament.
Freshman right-hander Nick Lee will get the call in the tournament opener Friday against Princeton, and sophomore ace Gunner Leger will get the start against Sam Houston or Arizona.