It started with a loud cheer in Baton Rouge.
It ended with more of a golf clap in New Orleans.
In between, there were celebrations in Lafayette, Hammond and Ruston.
It was all part of a banner day for Louisiana’s college baseball teams, the likes of which the state hasn’t experienced in more than a decade.
Five teams from the state saw their names pop up on the television screen as ESPNU unveiled the 64 teams playing in this year’s NCAA baseball tournament.
LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Southeastern Louisiana and Tulane all made the tournament, which begins Friday at 16 sites around the country.
Getting at least one team in is nothing new. Dating to 1979, at least one Louisiana team has made the field every year except 2011. But this year is special.
This is the first time since 2005 that five Louisiana schools made the tournament. That year, LSU, Tulane, UL-Lafayette, Northwestern State and Southern made it. Louisiana also sent five teams in 2000, 1999, 1994 and 1987.
With six teams apiece, only Florida, Texas and North Carolina produced more teams this year.
“It’s great for the state,” Tulane pitcher Emerson Gibbs said. “This state is super competitive. You see it during the season when we all sort of beat each other. There are some competitive ballplayers that come out of Louisiana.”
Southeastern Louisiana was one of the last teams to make it into the tournament, helping erase the heartbreak of a year ago when they missed out after a strong season.
It’s why Lions players tossed coach Matt Riser into a swimming pool at the team’s private viewing party.
Southeastern didn’t win the Southland Conference tournament, which would have given it an automatic berth. Instead, the Lions were chosen as an at-large team.
“We feel good because this is our first at-large bid in school history,” pitcher Mac Sceroler said. “We definitely earned this, and we showed everybody that we earned it. We didn’t just get in because we won the (conference) tournament. We earned it, and people have some respect for us after seeing that. It lets us know that we belong here.”
Southeastern had to wait to see if it would make it, but LSU and UL-Lafayette knew they were in. They were announced as tournament hosts Sunday.
But there was still reason to celebrate in Baton Rouge. A loud cheer erupted at the Tigers’ viewing party when it was announced they are the No. 8 national seed. That means if LSU wins its regional this weekend (it’s grouped with Southeastern, Rice and Utah Valley), the Tigers would host a best-of-three super regional the following weekend, with a spot in the College World Series on the line.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are in the tournament for a fourth straight season and are a regional host for the second time in three years.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to host,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “That was one of our goals this year.”
Tulane, which won the American Athletic Conference regular-season title, knew it was in the tournament; the Green Wave just had to wait and see where it was headed.
“We were in last year as a 3 seed, with fingers crossed hoping we’d get in as a bubble-type team,” coach David Pierce said. “This year, we were talking about hosting and didn’t quite make that goal. But we felt pretty comfortable that we were a solid 2. That in itself gives us so much confidence.”
Louisiana Tech ended almost three decades of frustration, making the tournament for the first time since 1987.
“This is just an awesome day for our program, these kids, our coaching staff and our fans,” coach Greg Goff said. “To finally see our name up there with the top 64 teams is just so amazing.”
The five Louisiana teams are in four different regionals, with only Southeastern and LSU in the same one. UL-Lafayette will host, and the other two schools are Mississippi-bound: Tulane travels to Oxford, and Louisiana Tech heads to Starkville.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri was asked whether he was surprised to have just one in-state school in the Tigers’ regional.
“I’m never surprised by anything,” he said. “I thought there was a lot of diversification (in) how they sent teams to different places. … Personally, I think there’s a great way to do it. I think there should be some other Louisiana flavor in our tournament, but I’m glad it’s not an entire state tournament — let’s put it that way. I think, for everyone’s experiences, the student-athlete’s experiences, the fan’s experiences, it’s great when the teams get shuffled around. Makes for a lot more fun.”
And this year, it should be a whole lot of fun for everyone in Louisiana, especially if a team or two gets to Omaha. LSU, which has six national titles, is the only team in the state to win a College World Series championship.
“LSU is going to be that model still, as far as being the major state school,” Pierce said. “But there is a lot of great baseball in this state.”
Monday confirmed that.