Chad Washington / The Advertiser
All year long, University of Louisiana at Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux has called his players "a bunch of grinders" for their ability to put their heads down and grind out big plays all year.
But Monday night, the grinding came to a screeching halt thanks to a gritty Ole Miss team.
The Ragin' Cajuns saw their successful 2014 season end with a 10-4 loss to the Rebels in Game 3 of the Lafayette Super Regional series. Ole Miss advances to the NCAA College World Series for the first time in 42 years, while the Cajuns will have to wait another year to get to Omaha.
"I'm proud of our players for what they accomplished here," UL head coach Tony Robichaux said. "What they gave us this year as men, I just can't be any prouder of our guys, the way they fought all season long and what they accomplished."
The loss was a tough one for the Cajuns to take, especially because it was at their home field, where UL has lost only six times this season before the Super Regionals.
"For what they accomplished, it's really phenomenal to me," Robichaux said. "For our coaching staff — we got a great coaching staff — and these guys just played their hearts out. I think that's why you see the passion and emotion with them. They know that they were good enough to get there."
It looked as though UL had the momentum after winning Game 1 9-5 on Saturday, but Ole Miss rallied to win Game 2 5-3 on Sunday and took advantage of some big hits and some erratic pitching by the Cajuns to get the win, and then had a dog-pile celebration on the Tigue turf.
"I like to congratulate Tony and Louisiana-Lafayette; what a tremendous year, what a tremendous ball club," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "To come here and for us to win two ball games here, it certainly was a huge feat. They're just outstanding, their offense gets so much credit, and they deserve it. They pitch and play defense and play so hard."
The accolades for the team this season are numerous and very impressive: Sun Belt Conference regular-season and tournament champions, the first-ever national No. 1 ranking ever, the first-ever national seed in the NCAA tournament, most wins in the nation and most wins in the program's history.
But besides all that, the players will think of other things that made this team so special.
"Just the team and the unity, the passion," outfielder-pitcher Seth Harrison said, holding back tears. "I'll never forget it. I'd do anything for these guys."
But looking toward next season, UL will lose eight players to graduation and possibly another handful may sign major league deals. Robichaux told his seniors that despite not making it to Omaha, they're going to leave UL with something special.
"That's what I'm proud of with these guys, that's guys with character," he said. "You're going to live the rest of your life, I told them, on your moral character than you are on your baseball character. And that's what I was proud of, is who they are and the men that they have become through this journey."