When the final out was recorded Sunday in Louisiana Tech’s 9-7 season-ending loss to Air Force at Disch-Falk Stadium in Austin, the reality slowly set in for the Bulldogs seniors that their collegiate careers had come to an end.
Head coach Lane Burroughs gathered his Bulldogs in the dugout, huddled them close, and had some private words one final time with the group.
It was the end to a special season that saw Tech post a 43-21 record, claim a Conference USA Tournament title and earn the program’s second straight NCAA Regional appearance.
And it was an end to the collegiate careers for some special Tech players.
“Air Force really competed their tails off,” said Burroughs. “I thought our guys did as well. It just wasn’t meant to be. I am not going to cry. I’ve already told these guys I’m out of tears.”
But bookended in the post-game press conference by fifth-year seniors Taylor Young and Steele Netterville – who both homered in their final game in a Bulldog uniform – Burroughs spoke from the heart about the two Bulldog Men.
“We talk all the time about leaving your legacy and these young men have,” said Burroughs, who listed off numerous accomplishments by both players. “They left their mark here and they have left their legacy, not just as baseball players but as human beings. They mean the world to me.”
Young, who owns the career hits, runs scored and games played records at Tech, belted a two-run home run over the left centerfield fence in the second inning, giving the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead at the time.
“I can’t put into words what it means to me to wear this jersey,” said Young. “Just the last five years have been the best five years of my life. Hands down and it’s because of the people that have surrounded this program and this team. Most of the teams around the country are up and down but we have (gotten better and better). That’s a testament to (Coach Burroughs). I can’t describe what he has meant to me, even outside of baseball. Just what he has meant to me as a person in general …”
Taylor’s emotions prevented him from continuing with his answer. However, his brother in arms picked up where he left off.
“It has meant everything to me,” said Netterville, the program’s all-time leader in doubles. “I know we’ve talked about it the last week or so, but Coach Burroughs gave me an opportunity and for that I’m forever grateful. I never expected to grow so close to a coach or my teammates through the years. Coach is doing something that I don’t think is being done at every other place. Not only is he creating good ball clubs, be he is creating good future husbands and fathers and sons. He creates good men.”
Both good men and their senior teammates will be missed by the Tech faithful.
After defeating Dallas Baptist 12-5 on Friday and taking Texas into the seventh tied at 1-1 Saturday before falling 5-2 to the Longhorns, the Bulldogs came up just short in Sunday’s elimination game.
“We were in an emotional game last night,” said Burroughs. “And when you get to the NCAA Tournament, it is 64 really good teams. Anybody can beat anybody. Just turn on your TV and look at the scores. It happens all over the country. We knew we would be in a dog fight. Those guys are well trained, and they are really good.”
Air Force banged out 17 hits, including three home runs, in the win.
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