One of the biggest sports events of the century in north Louisiana will take place a short drive on I-20 East this weekend as the Louisiana Tech baseball team hosts the NCAA’s Ruston Regional.
The annual Independence Bowl, nationally televised and often featuring Power 5 conference teams, certainly gives our area a dose of big-time college sports every December.
The annual Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebrations in Natchitoches bring nationally-renowned and even some globally-acclaimed sports figures nearby each summer. Minden’s own “Sweet Lou” Dunbar, the Webster High baskeball legend who became world-famous as the Clown Prince of the Harlem Globetrotters, is among the 2020 inductees getting enshrined June 24-26 (see LaSportsHall.com for info and ticket opportunities).
There have been big in-season, regularly-scheduled visits to Tech, Grambling, Northwestern and ULM by highly-accomplished opponents. The 2020 LHSAA Football Championships were held at NSU in Turpin Stadium. But it’s been over a decade since anyone in north Louisiana has hosted an NCAA Championship event on campus.
The wait is over, thanks to the magnificent season the Bulldog baseball team put together this spring. Tech (40-18), ranked 18th in the most recent college baseball polls, owns homefield wins over No. 1 Arkansas and No. 4 Vanderbilt and lost the Conference USA championship game Sunday in extra innings, in a year when C-USA placed four teams in the NCAA Tournament field of the nation’s top 64 baseball clubs.
Dimming the frustration of that 7-5 loss Sunday to Old Dominion was the announcement later Sunday that Tech’s fondest dreams were realized, and Ruston would host one of the 16 NCAA regionals pitting four teams in double elimination tournaments to advance winners to the eight Super Regionals with a shot at reaching the College World Series.
Friday, action begins at 1 p.m. when Alabama squares off against North Carolina State. Louisiana Tech, the region’s top seed and the No. 16 national seed, plays Rider at 6 p.m.
Game times for Saturday’s second round of contests and Sunday’s anticipated finals will be announced as the tournament flows. Ticket information will be available through the LaTechSports.com website.
“When we heard the news about hosting, we were thrilled,” said Bulldogs coach Lane Burroughs Monday at J.C. Love Field, where his team watched the NCAA pairings show on the new videoboard in a facility rebuilt after the EF-3 tornado in April 2019 destroyed the old stadium. “There’s not a lot of schools across the country who can say they’ve ever hosted a regional, and now we can say that at Louisiana Tech.
“We had a great atmosphere here Saturday and Sunday, as good as I’ve ever seen, and our fans pulled us through against Southern Miss (on Saturday, facing elimination, Tech pulled off two comeback victories),” said Burroughs.
“We don’t know much about Rider at this moment but they are champions in their league and one of the 64 best teams in the country. N.C. State started slow but has played lights out down the stretch in the ACC, and obviously Alabama plays in the toughest conference in the country, so we’ll have four very capable teams here this weekend.”
The winner of the Ruston Regional will advance to face the winner of the Fayetteville Regional hosted by the top-ranked Razorbacks.