It’s a week made for baseball fanatics.
Lane Burroughs and the Bulldogs join seven other teams today as the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Baseball Tournament opens up at JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
Tech (36-16) plays UTSA (22-24) at 4 p.m. in the third game of the opening day of the 5-day tournament that will crown a champion on Sunday. Tech won three out of four against the Roadrunners in Ruston less than two weeks ago.
The tournament starts at 9 a.m. when No. 4 seed Old Dominion faces No. 5 seed Florida Atlantic while the No. 1 seed Charlotte meets No. 8 seed Middle Tennessee at 12:30 p.m. The day culminates when No. 3 seed Southern Miss faces No. 6 seed Western Kentucky at 7:30 p.m.
Every game for the first four days will be on ESPN+ while Sunday’s championship game will be on CBS Sports Network.
“We’re going to be on the camera,” Burroughs said. “You’re going to see that state T in center field and Bulldogs behind home plate. Just the fact that it’s an infomercial for the next four or five days for Louisiana Tech and our baseball program means a lot.
“People that haven’t seen our beautiful new baseball park will see it. Word will spread. You can’t put a price tag on that, and it’s ultra-important that we have this here. That’s why you want to host postseason events because a lot of people are watching to see your product front and center.”
Despite looking human over the final few weeks of the season, the Bulldogs are still one of the odds on favorites to win the double elimination tournament. Half of the eight-team field is ranked in the Top 25 in the country as most baseball experts feel Tech, Charlotte, ODU and Southern Miss have already locked up regional bids.
However, Burroughs’ Boys are playing for more than just a regional bid. And the Tech skipper is confident in his team’s ability to play its best baseball in the postseason, starting with this week’s tournament.
“This team is more mature than other teams, and that doesn’t mean older,” Burroughs said. “It just means they’ve played more ballgames and have had more at-bats and been in the postseason. These guys have been ranked all year, and they’ve played with that, if you want to call it, pressure.
“You’re the hunted now, not the hunter. I just feel like these guys have got some toughness with everything they’ve been through. They’ve played all year with people being on them, and I honestly think we’re past all that.
“It’s a new season, and we’re just going to go out and play the best we can. It’s a more weathered ball club because they’ve been through so much. They’re just a really good group of kids that take care of things on and off the field and in the classroom. They’re a joy to coach, and I look forward to seeing them compete again.”
Tech saw five players named to the Conference USA First Team on Tuesday, including infielders Taylor Young and Hunter Wells, outfielder Parker Bates, utility man Manny Garcia and starting pitcher Jonathan Fincher.
The five Bulldogs earning first-team honors is a new program record, surpassing a previous best of three first-team recipients in 2017.
Young was also named the 2021 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.