by Malcolm Butler
Full transparency for anyone reading this that doesn’t know. I am a Louisiana Tech alum and a recently-retired 24-year veteran of the University’s athletic department.
I bleed red and blue. The LA Tech kind.
Wednesday night in Oxford saw lightning strike twice.
For the second time in three seasons, Ole Miss head coach Bianco and the Rebels baseball program ran from Lane Burroughs and the Bulldogs. Yeah, those Rebels. The defending national champions.
I will admit that there are a few SEC programs that I downright don’t like. But I have never had any issues with Ole Miss. I have friends who graduated from the Hotty Toddy.
I’m neutral on the Rebels, but not on their head baseball coach. He has a less than impressive track record with Louisiana Tech.
If you haven’t seen the news, the Bulldogs beat 4th ranked Ole Miss 6-5 Tuesday night on the Rebels own turf. Chalk one up for the good guys.
The two programs turned right around on Wednesday and started game No. 2 of the series. With Tech trailing 4-3 after six innings, the Bulldogs pushed across two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 5-4 lead. The Bulldogs had a runner on third with two outs when lightning forced a delay.
Rain was coming. But guess, what? Ole Miss elected not to tarp the field. Wait, what? Don’t get me started on that decision. Sounds a little fishy already.
So after almost two hours, just as it appeared as if the game may resume, another weather delay hit. According to all parties, the decision to not continue the game last night was the right one. Safety comes first. No one is arguing that point.
But with 16 outs still left and the outcome of the game still remaining to be determined, Burroughs and the LA Tech administration offered for the Bulldogs to return to Oxford next Wednesday — on Tech’s dime — to finish the game. Let the players decide the outcome in nine innings. Right?
“We have offered up to come back and play,” said Burroughs in an interview last night with KNOE-TV and KTVE-TV. “We don’t care. We are Louisiana Tech. We will come back, and we will play three innings. We will drive back up here. We got the push back (from Ole Miss) on that one as well.
“The decision to not tarp the field and when to start the game … we could have started it earlier. There are a lot of layers, and it’s unfortunate. And it’s disappointing. But it is what it is. We are at the mercy of (Ole Miss) because its their (home game).”
According to multiple sources, Bianco claimed his administration wouldn’t allow it.
Some of you may ask why Tech would want to continue to play if the Bulldogs were up 5-4? Tech won, right?
Not so fast my friend.
Baseball rules state if a game can’t be completed then the score reverts back to what it was through the last inning that was completed. So back to the end of the sixth we go and Ole Miss “wins” 4-3 … if you want to call it that.
But here is the fact. The game can be completed. Tech offered to make the drive back to Oxford to finish. You know, let the players decide it on the diamond. Who knows, the Rebels may have put a 10-spot on the board in the bottom of the seventh and run away with it. But, we will never know.
Ole Miss said it’s not happening. So the Bulldogs get a “loss” and Ole Miss gets … well whatever you want to call it.
I guess LA Tech fans shouldn’t be surprised. In 2021, Ole Miss was scheduled to play two games in Ruston. Just like this series, the two programs would play single games on Tuesday and Wednesday at JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
Tech had already beaten No. 1 ranked Arkansas that Sunday before the Rebels were set to arrive in Ruston (and almost took a second game against the Razorbacks before coming up short in that highly-competitive three-game series). Tech had already proven it was a Top 25 team.
The Monday before Ole Miss and Tech were set to play in Ruston, Bianco called Burroughs and said due to Covid the Rebels didn’t have enough pitching to play two games in two days. So the Rebels backed out of the second game of the series. Funny enough, the Rebels had plenty of pitching to play a three-games series that very weekend in SEC play.
And even funnier, it turned out the Rebels didn’t have enough pitching to play Tech even once. The Bulldogs pounded Ole Miss that Tuesday night in Ruston, 13-1. Who knows what may have happened the second night. Maybe Ole Miss wins. Maybe the Bulldogs sweep?
No one will ever know because Bianco and his Rebels ran back to Oxford.
Do you see a pattern developing?
So why is this one game so important some may ask? Well because a win or loss could be the difference in getting an NCAA at-large berth or not getting one. By virtue of its membership in the SEC, Ole Miss can finish 28-28 and the Rebels are most likely in the field of 64.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs could be 38-18 and be on the outside looking in when the postseason field is announced. A sweep by LA Tech over Ole Miss would be monumental in helping build the Bulldogs resume.
If you are a Louisiana Tech fan, you can be proud of Burroughs and his boys. They took it to Ole Miss on their field before their fans on Tuesday. And they Bulldogs were willing to travel back a week later to let the outcome of game two be decided on the field.
“We ask our guys to go out and play hard and to compete and they did,” Burroughs told the media following the game. “And then you have to go in and tell them that you lost after you took the lead. That’s kind of what I told the administrators and Coach Bianco and the umpires. Put yourself in my shoes. Your team battles back and takes the lead and now I have to go tell them that you lost. I know me personally, I wouldn’t want to win a game that way.”
Win or lose, I will go to bat with these Bulldogs anytime.