LAFAYETTE — When Carson Baranik and Christopher Trent were toiling near the bottom of LSU’s bullpen two years ago, neither could have figured they would face off for two different teams in an enormous game for both programs.
Baranik, the Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, goes for Louisiana-Lafayette in Game 2 of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ NCAA super regional against Trent and the Ole Miss Rebels. First pitch is set for 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
Baranik, from Bossier City, is 11-1 with a 3.27 ERA. Trent, who is from Madisonville, spent a year at Delgado in New Orleans before going to Oxford. He’s 9-0 with a 2.37 ERA.
Fear many beards
A Lafayette radio station made sure that fans attending Saturday’s super regional opener felt a furry kinship with the Cajuns players.
KPEL-AM 1420 and KPEL-FM 96.5 handed out 2,500 “furry” black beards and 1,500 paper beards as fans came through the Moore Field gates, an homage to the beards that most UL-Lafayette players have been growing during the season.
Giveaways were sponsored by Chris and Mamie Russo with Lafayette-based Renegade Companies.
Ole Miss assistant coach Cliff Godwin was an assistant at LSU under Paul Mainieri.
Godwin coached the Tigers from 2007-08 after a brief stint under Mainieri at Notre Dame.
The runaway success of the Ragin’ Cajuns this year has overshadowed the fact that the nation’s top-ranked team has reached that peak with home-grown talent.
Of the 27 players on UL-Lafayette’s NCAA roster, 26 are from Louisiana (18) and Texas (eight), with only pitcher/outfielder Ryan Wilson (of Owasso, Oklahoma) not from those two states.
Seven of nine in the batting order are from Louisiana: catcher Michael Strentz, second baseman Jace Conrad and designated hitter Tyler Girouard from Lafayette; third baseman Ryan Leonards from Crowley, shortstop Blake Trahan from Kinder; first baseman Chase Compton from Slidell and right fielder Dylan Butler from Belle Chasse.
All three projected starting pitchers for the weekend are also Louisiana natives: Austin Robichaux from Crowley, Baranik from Bossier City and Cody Boutte from New Iberia.
Fear the turtle
Former UL-Lafayette assistant baseball coach John Szefc had a successful super regional debut with Maryland on Saturday, with his Terrapins taking a 5-4 win over national No. 3 seed Virginia in the opening game of the Charlottesville super regional.
Maryland, making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 43 years, ran through the Columbia regional with a 3-0 record, beating host South Carolina twice.
Szefc was Tony Robichaux’s top assistant from 2003-08 and has led Maryland to a school-record 39 wins this season.
Szefc was the head coach at Marist from 1996-2002, when Szefc led the Red Foxes in the Lafayette regional in 2000, where the program scored its first NCAA tournament win with a 6-5 decision over McNeese State. He later joined the Cajuns staff as the assistant head coach, running the offense. He moved on to become an assistant coach at Kansas in 2009-10 and associate head coach at Kansas State in 2011-12 before going to Maryland.
The winner of the Lafayette super regional will open play in the College World Series against the Maryland-Virginia winner.
Sixteen players in the Lafayette super regional were picked in Major League Baseball’s draft that ended Saturday. Ole Miss had nine selections, and UL-Lafayette had seven ... Attendance Saturday was 4,278, which is more than 500 over the listed Moore Field capacity of 3,755. … Game 3 of the super regional, if necessary, would be at 6 p.m. Monday. All games are televised on ESPN2.
Advocate sportswriters Scott Rabalais and Sheldon Mickles and contributor Dan McDonald contributed.