Lane Burroughs sat in his office Monday afternoon looking like a relaxed man for the first time in almost two years.
The Bulldog skipper had just wrapped up one of the most impressive seasons in Tech history, a 42-win season that capped a grueling two year stretch dating back to the EF3 tornado that devastated JC Love Field in April of 2019.
Although his team fell just short of a Super Regional appearance against Arkansas, Burroughs and Co. have plenty to celebrate.
“When the season started, we were practicing out at Ruston High and Memorial Gym,” said Burroughs. “We didn’t start the season at our home stadium, and then it all culminated in hosting the conference tournament and an NCAA Regional.
“It was a great year, with lots of ups and downs, peaks and valleys like most seasons tend to be. We had a theme from the start with the guys of ‘leaving a legacy.’ Be that team that future teams look back and go ‘that’s the team that got it going.’ They went out and did it, and I couldn’t be prouder of a group of young men.”
The Bulldogs led by an experienced and talented group of Covid-19 seniors took Conference USA by storm, the nation by surprise and Ruston by its heartstrings, and they rode the momentum of early season wins over No. 1 Arkansas and No. 4 Ole Miss all the way to program’s first ever NCAA Regional host.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” said Burroughs. “They left it all out on the field. I think we created something. Our fans, from our student body to our season-ticket holders to our single-game buyers and the people who were out there for the first time ever, we created something and some tradition that I hope carries on for years to come.”
Tech won in about every imaginable way in 2021. Late inning heroics. Blow outs. Pitchers duels. Slugfests. The Bulldogs had answer after answer along the way.
It took the final day of regular season conference play to claim the West Division title – Tech defeated UTSA while Southern Miss fell at Florida Atlantic.
It took two come-from-behind, late inning wins over Southern Miss on the Saturday of the Conference USA Tournament for the Bulldogs to most likely earn the right to host the Ruston Regional (many experts believed that regional was headed to Hattiesburg before that Saturday that Tech fans will not soon forget).
And then, ultimately, Tech hosted the likes of North Carolina State and Alabama at the new-and-improved JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park for its first ever home regional.
“It was special,” said Burroughs.
“When you’re in the middle of it, you don’t really take it all in. But now that I’ve had time to sit back and think about what it meant, it was phenomenal. In one of our early season chapels, nobody was really saying anything about why we play this game. I said, ‘I want to bring people joy.’
“If you look at our crowd, they were happy and having a good time and enjoying themselves. I thought our players did that. They brought people joy and a reason to cheer, and that’s enough if people come back and if we’ve created something, that’s good enough for me.”
Photo: The scene at J.C. Love Field Sunday during Tech’s NCAA Regional 10-8 win over Alabama. (Photo courtesy LA Tech Athletics)