For the third time in program history, Tulane finds itself playing a regional in Oxford, Mississippi.
For any Green Wave fan wanting to know just how special those previous two trips up Interstate 55 have been to Tulane in the past, just ask former coach Rick Jones.
Both trips were special to him, albeit for different reasons.
The first one, in 2004, was for obvious reasons.
Tulane won it, despite being a No. 3 seed.
Their first game of the regional was against Washington and ace pitcher Tim Linceum, who has since won two Cy Young awards and three World Series.
Jones knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
But he was willing to do his homework.
He had a VHS tape on Lincuem, and he noticed a television right above the desk at the hotel the team was staying in.
He asked for permission from the hotel staff to take the TV down and hook a VCR to it.
“They let me do it, and there we were — me and 15 of my hitters sitting in the lobby on the floor watching this kid pitch,” Jones recalled.
But there were a few things he noticed.
“He had outstanding stuff, so I knew it would be hard to catch up to him,” Jones said. “Normally we wouldn’t take on a 2-0 and 3-1 pitch, but we decided we were going to take because after watching the tape, we thought he was going to walk some people.”
And he did.
Tulane won its regional opener 3-2. All three of the runs were the results of walks. Two of the runners who scored reached base on a walk, and the other scored on a bases-loaded walk.
Things got better later that day for the Green Wave when Western Kentucky upset tournament host Ole Miss, then Washington eliminated Ole Miss.
“It sorta became our region then,” Jones said.
Tulane beat Western Kentucky 7-0 and Washington 12-2 to win the regional before losing to eventual national champion Cal State Fullerton in the super regional.
As special as that trip to Oxford was, there was an even more memorable trip two years later.
No, that Green Wave team didn’t win the regional.
But heck, they weren’t even supposed to be there.
The odds had been stacked against them for almost a year.
Hurricane Katrina had struck New Orleans just nine months earlier. The evacuation notice was issued just as the freshman players were checking into their dorm rooms for the fall semester.
The team spent the fall semester in Lubbock, Texas, borrowing fields at Texas Tech, Lubbock Christian and any high school fields it could find.
They returned to New Orleans for the spring semester in time for the season. With their field destroyed, they played their home games at Zephyr Field.
“There’s one thing I remember saying to that team when we were driving to Zephyr Field for our games,” Jones said. “When you are seeing sheetrock all over the yards, don’t get sad. Understand that for these people, the one highlight of their day is coming out to see you all play. That team had a really good year.”
Somehow, the team managed to win 43 games, including a 15-9 record in Conference USA.
They reached the finals of the Oxford regional, eventually falling to Ole Miss.
Ten years later, Jones remembers it like yesterday.
“The time has traveled so fast,” he said. “One of the things I really enjoy reflecting on is how that team handled that and the kind of year they had. They had a lot of reasons why they could have made excuses, but they didn’t. That’s one of the clubs I will always be proud of.”
Can the 2016 Green Wave add more special memories in Oxford?