Friday at the Sun Belt Tournament – From the Bird’s Nest
Friday was supposed to be the "easy" day at the Sun Belt Tournament. Two elimination games. Start at 3:00pm. But Thursday's weather took care of that. Now, there were four games...well....three and a little bit as tournament officials tried to catch up with the schedule.
The Cajuns were scheduled to meet South Alabama at 12:30, so I actually went into the office to get some work done. FAU and Troy were scheduled to complete their suspended game at 11:00. That would give plenty of time, except the game was 1-1 in the ninth inning. i was just hoping it wouldn't go fourteen innings.
By the time I got to the ballpark, both teams were walking out of the stadium. I shouldn't have worried. I found out FAU hit a two run homer in the tenth to win, 3-1. FAU was done until Saturday and Troy would have to come back and face Arkansas State in an elimination game.
I already had lineups and stats in my book from the night before, so all there was to do was record my pregame interview with Coach Robichaux. With that done, I was ready for the 12:15 air time on the radio. Jimmy Johns provided lunch and someone brought me a couple of sandwiches and some chips. Reduced fat chips.
Someone trying to tell me something??
Beginning at 12:30, I watched Austin Robichaux perform surgery on South Alabama.
Robichaux the younger was magnificent, allowing just three singles after the first inning. He recorded 15 ground ball outs. He gave up a run in the first inning, but the Cajuns got two in the bottom of the inning. And, when Caleb Adams greeted reliever Jamie Dennis with a three run homer in the third, the game was decided.
Cajun fans, as you might expect, were ecstatic. After all, it was South Alabama. And, while that win guaranteed nothing, it meant the Cajuns would only need one more win.
After the game I tore down equipment to make room for Matt Stoltz, the Arkansas State broadcaster.. When I was out of his way, I left the press box so he could prepare for his broadcast against Troy.
I went outside and went to the Cajun Tails tent. I knew food wouldn't be ready yet, but I didn't want to eat. I wanted a beer. The group that run the tailgating spot always offer me one, but it's always before a game. Now I could have one and Pat McDonald obliged. We visited for a few minutes and Pat told me food would be ready in about an hour. I went to put my equipment in my car.
A Cajun fan stopped me to ask me a question. We chatted for a few minutes and one of the people he was with brought him his beer.
It was a Yuengling. I had made a new friend.
I never did make it back to the Cajun Tails. We all kept an eye on the scoreboard (thank God for the new scoreboard) while we visited. The Yuengling was gone but we continued to enjoy ourselves. Then we heard a cheer coming from the ball park.
Arkansas State had upset Troy 3-2, sending the top seed home.
That's the same Arkansas State team I said was painful to watch in an earlier blog. Actually in this tournament it was Troy who was a struggle to watch. The Trojans scored exactly six runs in their three games. The Red Wolves were suddenly fun to watch. And, they were headed to Saturday, where they would have a chance against Florida Atlantic. I began to wonder if there was a copy of my blog in the ASU dugout for motivation.
We decided to go in to see FIU and South Alabama. But before that game could start, here came the storms. I was in the media hospitality area where the food was, of course. Popeyes for dinner is not a bad thing. The rain stopped but the lightning continued. I knew, because the tournament was running behind, officials would do everything they could to get the game in. Finally the lightning stopped and the game started at 8:55pm.
I made it through about three innings. I visited with Mike Conrad, Jace and Brenn's dad. I've known Mike since he was a player in American Legion. He is, naturally, a very proud dad. But after three innings I was done. With play starting at 9 am and the Cajuns playing at 12:30, sleep was a priority. I found out later USA survived and would be the Cajuns' opponent on Saturday.
I was determined to get to the park early Saturday to see my new favorite team, Arkansas State, take on FAU.
I swear, if the Red Wolves keep winning, I'm taking all the credit.