The UNO baseball team may be coming off its lowest moment of the season after Tuesday’s 17-3 loss to the Louisiana-Lafayette, but the Privateers don’t have time to sulk, much less feel sorry for themselves.
UNO (30-21, 14-13) begins its final Southland Conference series of the season Thursday at Nicholls State (23-30, 11-16), and with an opportunity to reach the SLC tournament for the first time, coach Blake Dean says the team needs to move on and play at its best with the season on the line.
“We came out flat (against the Cajuns),” he said. “We had no intensity and drive. The end result was, we got whipped. I’m hoping they respond and show some fire (this weekend). We just have to play hard, play smart and lay it all out on the line.”
The Privateers enter their series against Nicholls holding the No. 5 seed in the eight-team tournament, but they’re clustered among five teams (Stephen F. Austin, McNeese State, Central Arkansas and Houston Baptist) who are fighting for the final four spots in the bracket.
With so many teams involved, numerous scenarios can affect UNO’s chances — but more likely than not, one win against Nicholls should be enough to lock up a spot in the tournament, which begins Wednesday in Sugar Land, Texas.
“We hold our own destiny in our hands, which is always a great feeling,” Dean said. “There are some situations where other teams can help us out, but we know if we take care of business we can finally reach our goal.”
UNO had been a doormat since joining the Southland in 2014, going a combined 5-55 in conference play over that span. This would mark their first appearance in a postseason tournament since 2007.
Dean has made it clear from the beginning that making a run to the postseason was his top priority from the beginning, and with that goal right at the team’s fingertips, he has told players go out and do whatever’s necessary to make that dream a reality.
“We’ve got a lot on the line and we’re trying to do something no UNO team has done since (2007),” he said. “It’s exciting for everybody involved, but it all means nothing if we can’t go out and get a win when we need it.
“The guys have done what it takes to earn this opportunity, now they just have to take advantage of it.”
A few injuries toward the end of the season have forced Dean to shift the lineup and pitching rotation. The first-year coach also expressed some displeasure with the way a few players handled Tuesday’s loss, hinting at more possible changes going into the series against Nicholls.
“We’ve had a few injuries that occurred and I still plan on changing a few things,” Dean said. “I’m not 100 percent set on (making changes) as of yet, but I was unhappy with a few things. I told the guys that I will play the guys that will do things right to help us win, and whoever doesn’t want to do that won’t play.”