Tech baseball embracing the challenge of expectations

It’s a five-letter word that many college baseball coaches usually dare not say when talking about their team’s chances in a season. If you are wondering what that word is, here’s a hint — it begins with O and ends with MAHA.

To everyone who says that Louisiana Tech can’t possibly think in those terms, the Bulldogs might say this:

Kent State.

Stony Brook.

Coastal Carolina.

All three have been in the College World Series in Omaha in the past 10 years. None have ever been considered a traditional college baseball power. Yes, the CWS is dominated by schools that are at the top of the college food chain. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for others.

The 2022 season may have snuck up on you — it starts today — but it didn’t catch Tech fans by surprise. Season tickets for J.C. Love Field are sold out. There is a buzz about the Tech baseball program that has never been there before.

“It does have a different feel, but that’s why you build your program,” Bulldog coach Lane Burroughs said. “This is where you want to be. You want people to expect you to be there. You want there to be a buzz. This is what we envisioned when we took over. We’ve just got to go out and deliver on the field now.”

Make no mistake — the Bulldogs won’t be easing into the 2022 season. Tech will open with seven games at home against three teams that have a combined 27 appearances in the College World Series. All three have been there in the past 25 years. It starts with a weekend series against Wichita State, next Wednesday evening’s sold-out game against LSU and then a three-game series with Tulane.

You halfway wonder if the Atlanta Braves would have been on the schedule if it weren’t for that whole MLB lockout thing.

The Bulldogs might have been the best story in college baseball last year. Stranded without a home for two years after a tornado destroyed the baseball facility, the program was rebuilt in multiple ways. What resulted was a re-done J.C. Love Field that is still hard to believe exists at the corner of West Alabama and Tech Drive.

What is harder to believe is the run the Bulldogs made at that facility. Tech went from a program literally playing on a high school field in 2020 to one that had wins over No. 1 Arkansas and No. 4 Ole Miss – in the same week – and a 22-8 record in Conference USA.

Then came the words that many found difficult to put together in the same sentence and actually believe — “Ruston Regional.”

Burroughs is the first to admit that the stars aligned for Tech last year, but what he is facing this year is completely different.

“We’re in a position we’ve never been in as a program,” he said. “We are getting a lot of attention (Collegiate Baseball has Tech at No. 15 in the pre-season poll), but our guys just want to compete.”

A year ago, it was a different atmosphere. “We talked last year as a team about leaving a legacy, but there really wasn’t much pressure on them, not much expectation,” Burroughs said. “Let’s be honest, we didn’t have a home (field) for two years.”

In many ways, the legacy the 2021 team left might manifest itself in the 2022 team. Was that just a once-in-a-lifetime team or the start of a program with ideas of going places? Might it become one that can actually think in terms of playing in Nebraska in June?

“I hear it said that not only do we need you to host (another regional), but we need you in Omaha,” Burroughs said of the baseball buzz. “But that’s why we all do this.”