College sports are an interesting lot. Football has a rabid fan base that outdoes even the most die hard of pro teams. Basketball has a decent spark in late November when heavyweight programs collide, then the nation sleeps on the NCAA as teams trudge through conference play, only to become enraptured during a blitz of last second shots, Cinderellas and improbable comebacks all in the name of March Madness. That leaves college baseball — somehow, someway still overlooked in a nation that is far too addicted to sport.
On the local front, with the Pelicans’ season mercifully coming to an end, New Orleans could, and should, turn its attention to its local division one ball clubs — the University of New Orleans and Tulane University.
If you’re just joining us, you’ve missed a half season of drama. Tulane has been more down than up, and besides two big wins over LSU, New Orleans has been stuck right in the middle of the Southland conference.
If you’re just joining us, you’re in luck! As both the Green Wave and Privateers are entering nasty stretches of their schedule that will prove just what these teams are made of. Every teams’ schedule from the beginning of time has always consisted of three clichés — “We wanna start strong.” “We gotta finish strong.” And the more often unspoken than not, “Good god that is a nasty string of games we have to get through.”
New Orleans and Tulane have entered the octagon.
New Orleans (19-14) is coming off a solid series win over the Lamar Cardinals, a team projected to challenge for the Southland title but hasn’t really answered that call. To which New Orleans says, “Whatever.” It’s all about winning series and moving on and the Privateers got a much needed momentum boost. Tonight, the Privateers host South Alabama (19-13) at 6:30 p.m. The Jaguars are one of those tough southern teams that are a nightmare to play and seemingly one solid postseason from making a name for themselves on the national scene.
This weekend the Privateers travel out to Lake Charles to take on the McNeese State Cowboys (23-9). The Cowboys, ranked 21st in the RPI, are currently in a two-horse race with Sam Houston State to win the Southland regular season championship. The Cowboys sport the best offense in the league.
The underdog parade continues next weekend as the Privateers visit Austin, Texas and take on former Tulane coach David Pierce’s Texas Longhorns (22-13). As Pierce seemingly always does, he’s rejuvenated the Texas program and has them pointed to returning to the NCAA regionals. And this is a weekend series, so the Privateers are going to face the best pitchers the Longhorns throw out. But, the Privateers have taken two from LSU, and Shawn Semple is hot, so you can’t count out UNO.
The Privateers are looking up at all these teams in every aspect — tradition, talent on the roster and expectations — but, Coach Blake Dean has this team believing and winning with a consistency that hasn’t been seen for many years out on the lakefront. UNO’s focus will be on a successful weekend against McNeese State, to put them in position for a strong finish in the conference. The schedule lightens up after this gauntlet and should push the Privateers into the Southland conference tournament. And that’s all a team can ask for — a shot at the title.
Tulane (14-16) still has a shot at sneaking into the regionals based on a strong finish to the regular season, but boy oh boy are they going to have to earn it. The Green Wave faces an improved Nicholls State team (18-16) tonight at Turchin Stadium in what begins a stellar home stand for baseball fans. While the other teams on this stretch have bigger names and reputations, do not sleep on the Colonels from Thibodaux. Nicholls State took Tulane down to the wire earlier this season and beat the Green Wave at Turchin last season. They won’t be afraid.
This weekend, the Green Wave plays host to the #25 UConn Huskies (19-10), who are undefeated in conference play, in a battle of the top two teams in the American Athletic. Tulane would have to sweep the Huskies to takeover poll position in the conference, but winning their third conference series in a row would definitely send a message.
Next week, a mid-week affair versus a desperate UL-Lafayette (18-13-1) will be followed, the next night, by a game versus the red hot #16 Southern Miss Golden Eagles (26-7). Then, it’s a series against #23 Houston (who just suspended their top prospect Seth Romero indefinitely), and then on to a mid-week clash with #9 LSU (22-11) and now I’m just laughing at how hard this schedule is going to be.
It’s a tough road to haul and one that needs to have the return of Ross Massey play a part in it. Tulane will need all of its arms and bats on point to get through this stretch and into post-season play.
So, if you like college baseball, then you should watch college baseball. Get out to the ballpark, folks. It’s really a great time. Now, pass the peanuts and batter up.
*Team rankings listed are the better ranking between D1baseball.com and Baseball America, because team names that have numbers beside them are cool.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing – Mudbug Brewery’s “Café Au Lait” Stout
Playlist Recommendation – Tina Turner – “We Don’t Need Another Hero”
Around the Way
I’m not going to make fun of you because you run. It’s not for me but, hey, my continual doffing of my shirt at every moment possible isn’t for everyone either. With that said, the Crescent City Classic 10K is going down April 15 and if you like to sweat and breathe heavily in public then this event is for you.
The race is pretty old school having been run since 1979. Don’t believe me? Check out the black and white photos on their website. Black and white means old school.
The “Girls on the Run” team, a group that promotes healthy living and building confidence in young girls through running, is one of many charities that will raise much-needed funds this weekend. This is one of those events that no one can talk smack about. Good things are happening for good people and that is something I will always show up for. In spirit that is, because running…sheesh.