Great Expectations, Great Anticipation – From the Bird’s Nest
Spring is a great time of year. We start to warm up after a (sometimes) cold winter. Leaves and flowers bloom. Crawfish become plentiful.
And, baseball and softball season arrives at Louisiana.
The history of both of those programs is another reason why Cajun fans look forward to the spring.
And, this year, excitement has led to expectations and anticipation. More than usual.
Softball begins its 40th season and Louisiana is planning for its 30th NCAA postseason. The Cajuns won 52 games a year ago and went undefeated in Sun Belt play. Gerry Glasco's team, thanks to a much more difficult schedule, may not match that win total this year. But this team could be better and fans who flock to Yvette Girouard Field at Lamson Park are expecting that to be the case. Glasco, who has been around some very good college softball teams, believes there is as much talent on this squad than any team he's coached. That's a pretty big statement.
I've been following the program for over 30 years now. My baseball duties don't allow me to see as many games as I'd like and I don't think I've been behind the microphone for softball since the end of the 2012 season when I filled in because of an emergency. But I don't remember as big an expectation for this program since 1994, when the Cajuns were 55-3 in the regular season. That team was ranked as high as second in the nation. Fans and coaches alike will be disappointed if this season doesn't end in Oklahoma City, and some fans believe the Cajuns can win once they get there. With two All-American pitchers, top returning hitters and an influx of talented transfers, those fans could turn out to be right. Louisiana opens with eight straight at home, but then will play 14 of their next 15 away from home.
Meanwhile, close by at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field at Russo Park, the anticipation grows daily. For the first time in a quarter century, the Cajuns' baseball team will be led by someone other than Tony Robichaux, after the beloved coach passed away last July. Matt Deggs, who was an assistant under Robichaux for two and a half years, takes over as the head coach. Deggs is talking about a goal of playing 70 games and he's got his players believing they can do it. Now, this is a program that hasn't been to a regional since 2016 and expecting to end 2020 in Omaha is a pretty tall task, especially after losing seven starters from last year's starting nine. But there are 16 newcomers, including plenty of junior college talent and the Cajuns should be better than their 28-31 record a year ago.
Fans know Matt Deggs is a different personality from his predecessor. They remember his intensity from the 2013-14 seasons. They're going to find out he will coach this team much differently. And, that's part of the anticipation. There's plenty of unknown surrounding this team. But there's also plenty of optimism. That, too, is part of the anticipation. The Cajuns play eleven of their first twelve games at home and, thanks to having some very good baseball teams within a four hour radius, the schedule has no gimmes, not even in the midweek.
In order to reach expectations, the teams must stay healthy. But if they can, springtime could be a lot of fun at the athletic complex.
Maybe even into the summer.