Good luck, Ole Miss.
After his team lost to Louisiana-Lafayette for the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship, UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said he would tell any prospective NCAA tournament opponent for the Ragin’ Cajuns, “good luck.”
Jackson State, San Diego State and Mississippi State now know what he was talking about.
The consensus No. 1 team in the country finished a four-game rampage through the losers bracket to win the Lafayette regional with a 5-3 victory against Mississippi State on Monday night at Moore Field.
“That’s who we are,” second baseman Jace Conrad said. “We know how to dig ourselves out of a hole.”
After winning 58 games, they have a pretty good idea how to stay out of holes as well.
But championship teams have to overcome obstacles of varying heights, and the Sun Belt dual champions now have a regional title, too.
The second-seeded and defending College World Series runner-up Bulldogs fell less than 24 hours after the host team blasted them 14-8.
Jackson State stunned the college baseball world by upsetting UL-Lafayette 1-0 Friday, then headed home after the Cajuns turned the tables in an 11-1 romp on Sunday.
San Diego State went back to California after a 9-2 thumping from the Cajuns on Saturday.
Suddenly, that Friday night loss that inevitably called into question the credentials of the nation’s No. 6 seed seems like it happened so long ago.
“After that game, we never felt any pressure,” said Matt Plitt, who got the save Monday.
“We knew we were capable of doing it.”
Frankly, it almost seems as though that loss never happened after UL-Lafayette won its four games by a combined score of 39-14.
“After Friday night, we just went back to being who we are,” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said.
What they are is a complete team, one that has the pitching, defense and hitting to win two more games and make it to the College World Series for the second time in school history.
Robichaux regularly calls his team a bunch of grinders, and that’s exactly what they are.
They scored three runs in the third, built it to 4-3, held it through two State threats, added a run in the ninth and finished with a 1-2-3 bottom half.
“We tried to jump on them early and hoped it would play to our benefit, and it did,” Conrad said. “We gave our pitchers only five runs, and they did a great job of getting outs for us.”
Conrad, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, provided a crucial insurance run in the ninth inning Monday night by getting hit by a pitch with two outs, stealing second and racing home on Blake Trahan’s single.
Part-time pitcher, part-time outfielder Ryan Wilson made his first start on the mound in 45 days and gave UL-Lafayette 6.2 strong innings and left with the lead.
“We’re a bunch of responders,” Wilson said.
State coach John Cohen said the Lafayette super regional with Ole Miss will be “a great matchup.”
“There’s no question UL-Lafayette is one of the best offensive teams in the country,” Cohen said. “They’re really hard to beat at home.”
Cohen paused, then added, “Then again, they don’t lose very often anywhere.”
The nation’s winningest team now has its sites set on Omaha, Nebraska. It joined 15 other teams that advanced out of the regional round.
A few-hours drive away, another one of those teams, Ole Miss, was polishing off the competition in a regional on its campus in Oxford.
For the Rebels, the next stop is Lafayette.
Congratulations on your regional win, Ole Miss. ... Oh, and good luck.