More from Tulane, South Alabama

The Tulane Green Wave went from Omaha to New Orleans to Lubbock in just over two-months' time last summer. It was a period they'll never forget. Now they're back on the road to Omaha again in a place they won a regional just two years ago. South Alabama is first up for the Greenies.

Last June, the Tulane baseball team was in Omaha for the College World Series. By late August, those who were coming back to the team for the 2005-06 season were wondering where all the fun had gone.

That's because a situation none of them could have imagined, although some forecasters had predicted for decades, came true. New Orleans as we knew it was gone.

Tulane students were displaced all over the country. The sports teams were moved to different locales. The football team was in Ruston for the season at Louisiana Tech. Others were in different areas. Some went to College Station and Texas A&M.

The baseball Green Wave headed to Lubbock at the invitation of Texas Tech head baseball coach Larry Hays.

Tulane was looking for a few good friends, and head coach Rick Jones found one in Hays.

"I've known Coach Hays a long time," said the veteran Green Wave manager. "He said come on and we'll take care of you. Their administration approved it, and we headed for Lubbock, Texas, for the semester.

"I've been coaching for 31 years, and all of a sudden I went back to college with my players. Went through orientation and learned the whole routine out there. The community of Lubbock and Texas Tech made us feel at home and did all they could for us."

Tulane went home in January. The Green Wave settled back in comfortably as the season moved on. The Wave went from 20-14 at one point this season and arrived in Oxford 41-19 and the second seed.

Jones said only those who lived through the Katrina ordeal can really know what it was like.

"It was an unprecedented challenge for any ballclub," he said. "We were not at home. We weren't in our own stadium. We were in Lubbock."

Was there a time when the Green Wave thought there might not be a 2006 season?

"I'm sure that crossed everybody's mind at one time or another," Jones said. "It's one thing to recruit against LSU and Ole Miss and Texas. But we were recruiting against CNN, too. That's something you can't compete with. The sensationalism, some valid and some not, was a concern. But our administration was dedicated to us being held intact, and we worked hard to do so."

The veterans of the team were called upon to help hold things together.

"We had to replace six starters from last season and also our weekend rotation," Jones said. "There are guys on this team who have been to three NCAA Regionals, two Super Regionals, and the College World Series. Every time there might have been a young guy who possibly could have asked why are we having to do this or that, the veteran guys said that's what we have to do and we're going to win, so let's go."

"It was a real bonding experience," said sophomore RHP Sean Morgan of Sugar Land, Texas. "We feel more like brothers now than teammates for all we went through. The older guys helped lead the team and helped us keep everything on track. It's really special to be here. We want to play for New Orleans. We know people down there are cheering for Tulane."

New Orleans area native Nathan Southard, a senior outfielder who was on the Oxford Regional championship team in 2004, said it's been a tough road back.

"In the beginning it was especially difficult," he said. "The whole change, making sure everyone back home was allright, getting new places to live, new classes, not everyone being able to take classes in their majors, things like that. Fall practice helped. That was what we looked forward to every day. That was our escape. When we got back in January, it was great to be home."

Tulane's home field, Turchin Stadium, was already planned for major renovations before the storm. The field, located on the back side of the Tulane campus farthest away from St. Charles Ave. and not far from where football's historic Tulane Stadium once stood, was under water for days and after that was a staging ground for relief efforts. The Greenies played at the Triple A ballpark Zephyr Field this season. The team expects to be back in Turchin for next season.

The baseball team was one of the lucky ones. Some of Tulane's teams were completely disbanded. Surviving were football, baseball, men and women's basketball, but many of the other sports did not. Jones said the plan is to eventually bring the others back.

"I've been with some of those coaches for a long time," said Jones, himself at Tulane for 13 seasons. "That was some tough news to take. It was one of those things that had to be done almost for us to be saved. We're going to bring those programs back in three or four years. Four of those teams we lost were conference champions last year. And they'd done everything we'd done. Talk about tough. It was."

And now the Green Wave baseball team plays on – representing themselves, their school, their classmates, and those who no longer are a part of Tulane as they are.

"There's nothing like being in Omaha," Jones said, who took teams to the College World Series in 2001 and 2005. "That's what these guys want to do again. We're the only club from Louisiana in the postseason this year. I've never had a club that hated to lose more than this one. I stayed on them but I marveled at them. I learned a lot from them this year.""

And in all they've lost this school year, the Tulane Green Wave learned all about winning in an entirely different light than they could ever have imagined just 10 months ago.


Across the Mississippi Sound from New Orleans is Mobile, the home of South Alabama. Steve Kittrell guides the Jaguars' baseball ship as he has for 22 seasons.

He played and coached at USA under the legendary Eddie Stanky. Kittrell's a South Alabama legend.

"Our team's really excited to be here," said Kittrell, whose Jags are 38-19 and the third seed in Oxford. "We've got new life. We'll come in here and play hard.

"I know it's an outstanding Regional field. Tulane's already beaten us two out of three this year. Ole Miss won the SEC Tournament and has had a great year. Coach Bianco does a great job every year. Bethune-Cookman went undefeated in their league and has had a good ballclub for several years. So this is a good group of teams."

Kittrell said his program, dubbed by many as the best in the country to never make it to Omaha, looks forward to competing in Oxford this weekend.

"Great atmosphere. Great fans. The field is outstanding. I just hope we do our part and play some good baseball."

Tulane and South Alabama meet at 3 p.m. Friday.

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