Louisiana 1, Rice 0

NCAA Regional   Disch-Falk Field, Austin, Texas

June 4, 2010

One of the things I love about broadcasting college baseball is the relationships that are made along the way.  Three game road trips and homestands make it easier to get to know the families of the players in addition to the players themselves.  I learned, for some of these families, I become their only link to their sons, especially those who can't always make it to "The Tigue" or on a road trip.

I've always been especially impressed with those families that extend beyond just the parents.  It's great that a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin or siblings also are there to show their support.

My schedule prevented me from getting to any of the UL Fall Ball World Series in 2008.  But, after the series was over, I saw Justin Robichaux at the athletic complex one day.  Knowing there were quite a few newcomers, I asked him to name me a difference maker in the new recruiting class that would take the field in 2009.

He didn't hesitate for a second.

"Zach Osborne," he told me.  "Everything he throws has sink.  Great command.  Great mental makeup.  He'll be our Friday guy."

Osborne went through an adjustment period to the Division I ranks as many junior college players do.  That, of course, was nothing compared to the adjustment he had to make in life.

Osborne had just entered junior college when word came that his father had passed away from complications following a debilitating automobile accident.  Zach Osborne, suddenly the man of the house, made the decision to forego school and come home to take care of his mother Dana and younger brother.

Dana Osborne would have none of it.  Her message to her son was clear.  Go back to school.  Finish school.  Play baseball.  We'll be fine.

And, that's what Zach Osborne did.

He transferred to UL after his two years at New Mexico Junior College, where he went 7-1 his sophomore season.  He was, in fact, the Cajuns prime weekend starter at the beginning of the 2009 season, but struggled a little and moved to the bullpen.  He regained his starting role after a big weekend against Middle Tennessee when he got a win and a save in a Cajuns sweep.

It wasn't long after the first games of the season that I received an email from Dick and Peggy Herring.  Peggy is Zach's grandmother, Dana's mom.  Dick wrote just to let us know they were listening.  They made many trips to Lafayette and other cities to show their support for Zach.  On nights they couldn't make it, they communicated through email while listening to the broadcasts.

I also met Dana early on.  She was woman who smiled easily and it was very easy to tell early on how devoted she was to her son.

In Zach's junior season, one of the highlights for me was his performance at Troy.  Barry McKnight, who does the broadcasts for the Trojans, has become one of my better broadcasting friends in the league.  When we got to Troy in 2009, the first thing Barry said to me was how happy he was that the Trojans no longer had to face Hunter Moody, who had dominated the Trojans during his career.

That night, Zach Osborne carried a two hit shutout into the ninth inning and finished with a four hitter.  Barry didn't say much as he left.

In 2010, there was no question who the ace of the staff was.  Osborne was 9-4 and had one of the best ERA in the league at 2.37.  The Cajuns started slowly at 14-14 and sat near the bottom of the league at 4-8 when the turnaround came.

And, it started with Osborne going up against Troy.

He threw a one hit shutout.  Barry McKnight was wishing Hunter Moody was back with the Cajuns.

Dana was there.  Every Friday.  And, this year she had company.  Her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Ray and Becky Jacobsen have a home in Houston.  Ray works in Chicago.  Zach's dad was Becky's brother.    Usually it was Ray who was physically present while Becky listened back home.  Dick and Peggy were there regularly as well. We all became friends, to the point where, one Friday, while I was doing my radio show, I got a text from Dana.  It read "I've been within listening range for 30 minutes now and you have yet to mention my son."


Osborne's shutout of Troy began a remarkable turnaround where the Cajuns won 23 of their last 27 games, including 17 of 18 conference games to come roaring back into the conference race, and, on the final weekend, celebrated a Sun Belt Conference Championship with a sweep over ULM.

After the conference tournament, the next stop was Austin, Texas for the NCAA Regional, hosted by Texas.  The Cajuns' first opponent would be Rice, who had one of their best offensive teams in quite a few years.  The Owls hit .326 as a team with 96 home runs and a .560 slugging percentage.  Eight of their nine starters were batting over .500 and four had hit double-digit home runs, led by third baseman/DH  Anthony Rendon (.394-26-85.)

The Cajuns had their work cut out for them.

Osborne would get the start, naturally, in game one.  Dana was there.  Dick and Peggy were there, too.  And,

Uncle Ray and Aunt Becky had made the trip from Ohio as well.

What we all saw was one of the best single game pitching performances in Cajuns' post-season history.

Osborne allowed the lead man to reach base only once, when he hit Chad Mozingo with a pitch to open the sixth.  Rice loaded the bases that inning, but Osborne struck out Jeremy Rathjen to end the threat.

That was as close as the Owls would get.

Osborne gave up one hit in the third inning, one in the fourth, two in the eighth (both with two outs) and one in the ninth. All five hits he gave up were singles.

Still, it was up to the Cajuns offense to get something.  And, for seven innings against Jared Rogers, they got nothing.

Finally, in the eighth, Kyle Olasin had a leadoff double.  It was the only extra base hit for either team in this pitcher's duel.  Matt Goulas popped up a bunt and Jordan Porrier was walked intentionally.  Olasin got trapped between second and third for the second out, but Porrier was able to reach second.  Chad Keefer then got a clutch single to right field, scoring Porrier with the game's only run.

Now, Osborne's job was to get six outs.  He got the heart of the order, Rick Hague, Rendon, and Diego Seastrunk in order in the eighth.  And, he got the first two out in the ninth before Michael Fuda's single gave the Owls life.  But Osborne flagged down a ground ball from the next hitter and the Cajuns had a most unlikely 1-0 win over one of the country's best hitting teams.

It was the first Cajuns' shutout in the post-season since Andy Gros shut out LSU in 2002. I did the only thing I could do from the booth.  I stood and applauded.

After getting off the air, I went downstairs.  Dana, Dick and Peggy and Ray and Becky were all outside, waiting for Zach.  When he came out, everyone wanted a picture with him, including me.

Then it was time for me to head out.

It was time for Zach to be with family.


(NCAA Box Score, UL Sports Information and Dana Osborne contributed to this story.)