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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, June 15, 2000

C O L L E G E _ B A S E B A L L

College World Series

Ragin’ Cajuns
scramble on

The underdogs advance in
the College World Series

By Kalani Simpson
Special to the Star-Bulletin


OMAHA, Neb. -- Louisiana-Lafayette's Jarvis Larry crossed home plate to tie things up in the bottom of the ninth inning, the beneficiary of a perfect squeeze bunt. He celebrated madly. He pumped his fist.

Larry turned around and caught the action behind him with the corner of his eye. It surprised him, so he dove to the ground instantly, hitting the dirt in a frantic foxhole drill.

Larry furiously motioned with his arms: Slide! Slide!

Rick Haydel did, a headfirst thing of beauty. The greatest slide in Ragin' Cajun history was safe, TV replays showed, by an inch.

Haydel's slide had been picture perfect, and so was his leap of celebration.

Ballgame over.

First-time entry Louisiana-Lafayette stayed alive in the College World Series yesterday, thanks to a thrilling 5-4 elimination-game victory over Clemson.

The improbable Cajuns advanced to face Justin Wayne's Stanford team today (9 a.m. HST).

Clemson's 51-18 season was ended in a chaotic flourish.

And in a joyous mob near home plate, Cinderella danced.

That is the beauty of sport.

The ugliness followed a few seconds later.

The play at the plate had been unbearably close. A few stunned Clemson players came forward to question the call. A couple of Cajuns disputed Clemson's dispute. Words were exchanged.

Both teams want it so bad, Louisiana-Lafayette Coach Tony Robichaux explained.

The fans at Rosenblatt Stadium, long celebrated as the home of gracious hosts, looked down at the scene and weighed in with a chorus of boos.

The melee marred what had otherwise been the closest, most entertaining game of the College World Series.

Louisiana-Lafayette entered the game with a record of 6-1 when facing elimination in the 2000 postseason, and was wearing the mantle of the scrappy underdog well.

In the fifth inning the Cajuns executed a daring double steal, in which Steven Feehan swiped home to give Louisiana-Lafayette a 3-0 lead.

"There was no guts to it, Robichaux said. "We're going to play the way we played to get here."

But then inexperience popped up.

Clemson drew two walks in the seventh inning, and a one-out error gave the Tigers two runs. A two-run double got two more. And Clemson, a program with nine trips to Omaha under its belt, was erasing the Cinderella storyline.

That is, until the ninth.

Larry walked, and a sacrifice moved him over. Haydel stroked a single, Cajuns on first and third with one out.

Robichaux and third base coach Wade Simoneaux decided to take the pumpkin carriage out for a test drive and see how she handled.

Feehan's second perfect bunt of the afternoon clung lovingly to the first base line. Larry scored. The game was tied. The ball went to first base for the out. The Clemson second baseman didn't.

At that point, it snowballed real quickly, Clemson Coach Jack Leggett said.

The ball traveled into right field foul territory, where Singleton was backing up. And Haydel never looked back.

"I didn't know how close it would be,'' Haydel said, "I just trusted Coach (Simoneaux)."

Coach Simoneaux does not own a stop sign, Robichaux said.

Haydel scored, Cinderella survived.

And all heck broke loose.

Today, favored Stanford will find out if Louisiana-Lafayette remains a team of destiny.

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