LAFAYETTE — The beards boasted by UL-Lafayette’s squad have become a political issue.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., had a phone hookup with the Ragin’ Cajuns clubhouse immediately after the team’s Friday practice session in preparation for Saturday’s NCAA super regional opener with Ole Miss to express best wishes for the weekend.
The senator had a pointed message for second baseman Jace Conrad, whose lengthy red beard is starting to attain Viking status.
“Jace, under no circumstances should you shave your face,” Landrieu said, bringing a roar of laughter from the Cajuns locker room.
Landrieu had just finished awarding medals to World War II veterans at a morning ceremony at the WWII Museum in New Orleans before joining the Cajuns by phone.
“I had the great privilege to award 17 medals to men who charged the beach in Normandy,” she said, “and we had a couple of veterans from Lafayette here. I’m going to go tell them that I talked to you, and how excited we are that the whole state is over the top for you guys.”
Landrieu couldn’t resist getting in a dig at the border rivals.
“We’re so proud and we’ll be cheering for you,” she said. “We of course really want to beat Ole Miss, so go get ’em.”
Conrad was named the Most Outstanding Player in last week’s NCAA Lafayette regional and is hitting .432 in nine postseason games in the Sun Belt and NCAA tournaments.
Still, that figure is not even close to the two best batting averages for the Cajuns in the postseason.
Shortstop Blake Trahan currently holds a .586 batting mark in those nine games, going 17-for-29 with five extra-base hits and 10 RBIs. Left fielder Caleb Adams is at .464 in nine postseason games (13-for-28) with three extra-base hits and seven RBIs.
Conrad does lead the team with 12 RBIs in that stretch along with two homers.
Giving them the slip
The Rebels wrapped up Friday’s pre-tournament workout with sliding practice.
Yes, sliding practice.
“We usually don’t do sliding practice,” Ole Miss third baseman Austin Anderson said, “but this is our first time on an all-turf field.”
Moore Field doesn’t have a dirt infield, just-dark brown-colored turf around the bases where dirt would be.
It requires a little getting used to.
“On turf, you slide a little farther,” Anderson said.
UL-Lafayette’s 57-8 record puts the Cajuns three wins short of the NCAA record for season wins since the maximum 57-game regular season rule was adopted in 1992. The most victories since that time is 60 recorded by Florida State during a 60-14 season in 2002.
If the season ended today, the Cajuns would have the 10th-best winning percentage in NCAA Division I history with their current .876 won-lost mark. Arizona State holds the all-time record with a 64-6 record and a .914 win percentage. The only better winning percentage since the NCAA’s games restriction was instituted in 1992 is Wichita State’s 56-7 (.889) mark in 1998.
Lights, cameras ...
Fans who have been at Moore Field during the regular season and for last week’s regional round may notice a little more brightness on the playing surface.
To satisfy network television requirements for the ESPN2 broadcasts, portable lighting standards from Musco Lighting have been added to the regular light towers.
Former LSU All-American pitcher Ben McDonald will be the color analyst for the super regional, while Tom Hart handles play-by-play.
UL-Lafayette is installing video screens and TVs in the courtyard area outside the Moore Field grandstands for fans who want to experience the super regional atmosphere but don’t have tickets, athletic director Scott Farmer said. There is no admission charge. ... Four Ole Miss players were drafted Friday: Saturday starting pitcher Chris Ellis (third round, Los Angeles Angels), center fielder Auston Bousfield (fifth round, San Diego Padres), Anderson (ninth round, Baltimore Orioles) and pitcher Josh Laxer (ninth round, Detroit Tigers). ... Lafayette is the only one of the eight super regionals that matches two teams that were seeded No. 1 in the regional round.
Advocate sportswriter Scott Rabalais and Dan McDonald contributed to this report. Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.