Time to open conference play….with a trip to Monroe.

There was no reason to take my car up there, I mean, where am I going besides from the hotel to the ball park?  Besides, I had been feeling under the weather since Monday night and was loaded up with Benadryl.  So, I got a couple of boxes of Kleenex and got on the bus with the team, making sure I didn’t breathe on anyone.

Bab and new assistant coach Matt Deggs weren’t riding with us, as they were going up early to see teams in a big tournament in West Monroe.  So, there was plenty of room in the front of the bus.  The good news was, there was satellite television on the bus and it was the first day of the NCAA Tournament.  And, if necessary, I had downloaded the app where I could watch the games on my phone.

Coach Robe got on the bus and said “I guess we’ll watch basketball instead of spring training baseball.  Now, I mean, who besides Robe would rather watch spring training baseball over the NCAA tournament?  I had the remote and offered it to him, but he said “no, it’s cool.” And we started the trip.  Unfortunately, the early games on Thursday weren’t that exciting and I changed the channel….to spring training baseball and gave the remote to Robe.  Once the game was over he switched it back to the tournament, where Syracuse was getting a scare from UNC-Asheville.  We all groaned over a lane violation and a brutal out-of-bounds call that went against the little guy.  Those calls always do.  The Orange survived and we pulled up to the hotel.  It was nearly 5:00.

We stayed at a new hotel, the Townplace Suites, which was under construction when we were in Monroe for the conference tournament in May.  It’s a pretty nice place, with a large sofa and a small, full kitchen.  It had a full sized refrigerator, a microwave, a two burner stove, a dishwasher, sink and cabinet full of plates, utensils, etc.  Great room for someone who was there on business and had to stay an extended length of time.

There were drawbacks.  There always are.  In this particular case, it was the television.  The NCAA tournament was on four channels and this hotel only got two of them.  No TNT.  No TruTV.  That meant TBS and CBS would be my choices.  I watched Kentucky handle WKU and in the meantime ordered food to go from the Applebees next door.  I brought dinner and dessert back to the room and got about halfway through the pasta and was full.  The refrigerator and freezer were going to come in handy.  It would be leftovers for lunch on Friday and that dessert would come in handy at some point in time.

I spent a fitful night, continuing to battle the cold I had.

Friday morning after breakfast, it was back to the room to get some work done before the Friday games began.  Thursday in the NCAA tournament was pretty disappointing from an excitement standpoint.  There were a few good games, notably New Mexico/Long Beach State and Wichita State/VCU.  But with exception of VCU, the only other lower seed to win on the first day was Iowa State over UCONN, and that was hardly an upset.

Friday hopefully would be better.  It was time for an overtime game, a buzzer beater or, at the very least, some upsets.  And, the upsets were many.  It made for good watching until it was time to go to the ballpark.  I didn’t even have to go out for lunch, since I had leftovers in the fridge.

At the park, I had plenty of time on my hands.  Once I got the lineups done, there wasn’t much else to do.  Since softball was playing on espn1420, I wouldn’t have a pre-game show on Friday because of programming commitments on 96.5 KPEL.  So, I kept up with the tournament and watched batting practice.  Surprisingly, there was no breeze at the park, which was unusual at Warhawk Field.

But I made sure I got to see Tabby Soignier before I went on the air.  Tabby is the ULM beat writer for the Monroe News-Star.  I had seen her last at the conference tournament last year.  It wasn’t long after that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  That’s quite a blow when you’re only 26 years old.  Surgery and lots of chemotherapy later, she reported she was cancer free and went back to work as baseball season began.  I had kept up with Tabby’s progress on Facebook and was really happy she got through it and was able to back to doing what she loved.  I went into the main press box and she saw me and came over to say hello.  We hugged but didn’t have a lot of time to visit, since we were getting close to game time.  Other than having a hairdo kinda like mine, she looked the same as she did last May.  She’s a really nice person and I’m rooting for her.

After Jordan Nicholson’s sparkling performance, which ended after just two hours, eleven minutes, I went back to the bus.  I had gotten an inkling that Duke might be in some trouble against Lehigh.  Now, if you know anything about me, you know I am not a Duke fan.  The television wasn’t on, and I wasn’t going to ask, so I pulled out my phone and called up the game.  The bus had to stop and pick up dinner (shrimp po-boys from the Waterfront Grill…yum) and by the time we pulled into the parking lot back at the hotel, the game was over and Duke was out in the first round.  That made Friday nearly the perfect day.  Cajuns win.  Duke loses.  I like days like that.  I even forgot I hadn’t been feeling well.

I went up to my room and did the game story for our website and watched the rest of the games.  But again, I really didn’t sleep very well and I was tired by the time I got up for the day.

The round of 32 was ready to begin and I watched Syracuse bounce back from a tough first game and dispatch Kansas State.  We left for the park around 3:45 and I got to see some of Gonzaga and Ohio State before getting on the bus.  I was busy once I got to the stadium, but kept pace with what was going on in the tournament.  And, I was informed by the ULM crew that Johnny’s Pizza would be served before the game.  Now, if you read this blog regularly, you know I’m really fond of Johnny’s Pizza and look forward to it every time I go to North Louisiana.  They have one in St. Martinville now but I haven’t gotten there yet.  The food arrived around five and I got a chance to savor Johnny’s before we went on the air.  The baseball game was tough and tight and very well played.  But the Cajuns came away with the extra inning win.   I decided to ride back to the hotel with baseball SID Matt Hebert, who had driven up on his own.  The team is usually ready to leave right after the game and I didn’t want to hold them up.  I had already made arrangements with Matt to ride home with him after Sunday’s game so he wouldn’t have to make the trip alone.  Matt had about a half hour worth of stuff to do and I went ahead and got the game story on our website while he did his work.

Back at the hotel, I was really interested in the late game between Louisville and New Mexico.  I had gone out on a limb and picked the Lobos to reach the Final Four.

So much for that.

It was really a great game, but Louisville extinguished my bracket by winning 59-56.

I hadn’t taken any cold medicine (I was feeling much better) and figured I’d sleep better Saturday night.

I did.  For about five hours.  I woke up at 4am and couldn’t go back to sleep.

I went downstairs and had coffee and a bagel once they put the food out and then went back to the room and tried to go back to sleep for an hour or so.  My phone rang right about the time I was falling asleep.  So much for that.  I showered, packed and Matt and I left for the park at eleven.

I found out Tabby wouldn’t be there that day.  She was headed to Houston for her first checkup.  That’s happening on Monday and I’m hoping she’ll have a good report.

Baseball was a little frustrating because of the men left on base in the ULM win over the Cajuns, 7-5.  Afterward I wrote the website story while waiting for Matt.  It was around five when we left for Lafayette.  We stopped in Columbia at a Sonic, which for me is kinda like Steve and Dairy Queen.  I’m not obsessed with Sonic, but I do prefer it over most fast food places.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful.  I kept track of the Ohio-South Florida game, which ended about the time we got back to town.  And, once arriving at home I got to see the second half of Lehigh-Xavier, the second half of Kansas-Purdue (what a game!) and the second half of Florida State/Cincinnati (another good one.)

And, after that, a good night’s sleep.  Monday morning, however, came too soon.