For the first time in 26 years, someone other than Tony Robichaux will lead the UL baseball team in it’s season-opening game.
Matt Deggs coached under Robichaux as the hitting coach for the Cajuns from 2012-2014, and he has assumed the role of head coach of Louisiana baseball following Coach Robes passing in July.
Deggs and his Ragin’ Cajuns embark on their 2020 campaign this Friday night, wanting to win not just opening night, but every game, in honor of Robichaux and the legacy he built here in Lafayette.
“You want to win for Coach Robe,” Deggs says. “Dang right I want to win for Coach Robe. We ain’t gonna let Coach Robe down. Coach Robe built this. Coach Robe is the reason that this press conference looks like it’s in Boston and not Lafayette, Louisiana. Coach Robe is responsible for creating something that has performed and played much larger than it is over the course of 25 years.”
“As much as the first game means to Coach Robe and to Coach Robe’s family and a lot of people in this community and this fan base, so does game 70,” senior outfielder Brennan Breaux says.
Preparing to play close to 70 games this year, the Cajuns don hats with wolves embroidered into the seams during practice. Deggs has created a pack mentality within his team, which players say helps them perform their individual role to the best of their ability.
“One thing he always talks about is the take-down,” junior shortstop Hayden Cantrelle says. “He compares it to wolves in a pack I guess you could say. As a lineup, as a team, both offensively and defensively, it’s all about performing in your role. I feel like our team throughout has that pack mentality. That’s what he’s referring to. Just doing your role whenever it’s called upon.”
“It takes all kinds to make it go round, to make the offense work,” Breaux says. “We’ve got all those pieces. It’s just a matter of when those bullets start flying, we’re gonna do it man. We’re excited.”
Excitement is just one of the many emotions surrounding this team this season. Ranked in the preseason top-25 at number 24, the Cajuns have an Omaha or bust mentality.
“It’s not a matter of expecting to win one game,” Deggs says. “We expect to win the whole thing. I will never in my life take part in anything unless I expect to win the entire thing.”
“Coach Deggs says this all the time, we’re not playing for opening night,” Breaux says. “We’re playing for June. We’re playing for the trip to Omaha. We’re not playing for game one. We’re playing for game 70.”
The first chapter of the odyssey to Omaha will be written this Friday. Opening Day kicks off at 6 p.m. against Southeastern at Russo Park.