In football they’re often referred to as “The 12th Man” — a raucous fan base that a team can feed off of and draw energy from.
If the Conference USA Baseball Tournament last weekend proved anything, it’s that the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs baseball team has that kind of fan base that can pump them up as much as the Endor song “Pump It Up” obviously does when it’s played during games at “The Love Shack.”
The Bulldogs and their fans were plenty pumped last weekend as Tech roared back from behind in three straight games to somehow reach the C-USA Championship Game against Old Dominion.
As a college undergraduate I proudly attended Tech baseball games as a “Right-Field Rowdy,” getting a little raucous in what was then a lightly wooded area between the outfield fence and the railroad track running behind it. Last weekend, inside the new “Love Shack,” the crowd was the most wonderfully rowdy baseball crowd I’ve ever been part of, and their efforts definitely helped pump up the Diamond ‘Dogs.
“We need them to do exactly what they did this past week,” said Tech second baseman Taylor Young of the crowd support the Bulldogs received during the C-USA Tournament heading into this weekend’s upcoming NCAA Regional at The Love Shack. “Just come back and show your support. When we’re down, lift us up like they did last weekend against Southern Miss. When they would go crazy, Southern Miss felt it. We felt it. We weren’t going to lose either of those games. When the fans are in it, there’s just something about that energy and the presence of them being there, the atmosphere they create, just helps us go as a team. You feel that pressure just off of you and it’s all on the other team. We just need the fans to show back up like they did last weekend and I think it’ll be fun.”
Outfielder Park Bates agreed the crowd pumped energy into the Bulldogs multiple times in multiple games last weekend.
“It was unbelievable,” Bates said of the electricity created by the home crowd during the C-USA Tournament. “When we’re dancing and having a party in the dugout and the fans are getting with us, there’s nothing more relaxing. It builds your confidence up. You have people around you and they’re supporting you. They want you to do good. They have your back. That’s a great feeling as a player to have that. I’m just so thankful for our fans this week. They lifted us up so much. In my five years this is the best it’s ever been. It’s incredible. I got chill bumps when we’d play “Pump It Up.” Seeing the fans feed off of our energy was unbelievable.
“We’ve shown we can beat anyone in the country when we’re playing loose, when we’re having fun.”
Outfielder Steele Netterville admits that the Endor song has become somewhat of a mantra for the Diamond ‘Dogs.
“‘Pump It Up’ means we like to party,” Netterville said. “On the field we like to have fun. We like to have fun off the field with each other. We love each other genuinely and like to be around each other. I think that’s a big part of the reason we’ve been successful this year.”
He also credits the crowd for playing a big role in Tech’s success.
“The fans were everything for us last week,” Netterville said. “They were the difference maker. They were awesome. Friday night we went down 8-0 and the crowd basically said, ‘No, this isn’t how it’s going to end here at JC Love Field. You’re not going down at The Shack like this.’ They gave us some energy and Hodges came out of the bullpen and gave us a shutdown inning and we just got going. They fueled us and we fueled them back and it kind of kept going like that.
“The crowd, they’re everything. I’m so happy to be part of this program and this team. They bring real juice. They genuinely want us to succeed. They’re loud and get into it. When Southern Miss had their fans getting loud our fans got a little louder. They’ve got a competitive spirit, as well. And we like that. It was awesome.”
Netterville said that the way the Bulldogs endured becoming nomads after the 2019 tornado that destroyed the original JC Love Field only “pumped them up” more to go as far as they have this season.
“We’ve been through a lot and are not forgetting where we came from,” Netterville said. “But that’s what put us in the position we’re in right now. So we’re grateful for that. We didn’t question ‘Why us?’ We just wanted to work and prove we could get through this as a team. If we’re together, we can get through this.”
Tech head coach Lane Burroughs admitted that electricity and emotion built up by his teams and his fans got to after Sunday’s C-USA Championship Game loss to Old Dominion.
“I spoke to the team (Sunday) and I lost it,” Burroughs said. “I just started weeping like a baby. I guess I’m getting old and sentimental about things. I could feel it building up. What we’ve been through. What this team has been through. It’s been tough. And it got emotional (after Sunday’s loss to Old Dominion). Some guys in the room got emotional. These guys deserve it. They earned it.
But now Burroughs is asking for Tech fans to return with the same electricity and emotion they showed last weekend for the upcoming Regional Tournament and hopefully get the Bulldogs dancing to their own brand of rowdy “Electric Boogaloo.”
“We need the DJ to keep going,” Burroughs said. “I don’t know who it is but I’d like to meet him or her. The music makes a difference. I was getting texts from a lot of our donors and they were saying, ‘Hey, when there’s 60- to 70-year women out there dancing, you know it’s a good atmosphere. I’m looking up during pitching changes and everybody’s dancing. Heck, I wanted to dance. But I had to compose myself.
“Our fans were outstanding. They showed up, they were loud, especially when they needed to be, and they pulled us through. The guys had to do the work, but we got word from a couple of teams that were here that told us ‘that was pretty intimidating.’ It was the rowdiest atmosphere we’ve been in all year. Not even close. The Old Dominion coach told me that game prepared them for a Regional because they hadn’t been in anything like we had here on Sunday. That says a lot about our fans.”
Young says the crowd deserves everything happening right now as much as the team does.
“This city deserves it with all that they’ve been through,’ Young said. “And this team deserves it. We have a bunch of guys who came from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. We’ve got a lot of guys from a lot of different areas that really deserve this. They’ve grinded to get to this spot and I’m just really excited for this team.”