After going on the road in 2022, LSU Softball is back home hosting its own Regional. And it wouldn’t be a Baton Rouge Regional without the UL-Lafayette Cajuns, who are the 2-seed at Tiger Park this weekend.
The Tigers and Cajuns are 9-9 against each other in postseason play across 10 regionals, nine of which in Baton Rouge. The Cajuns won three of those regionals, while the Tigers won five. And because they both won Friday, they will meet at least once more.
The rivalry is easy to understand given the two schools are the two premiere softball programs in the state of Louisiana, but the history goes deeper than that. Yvette Girouard, the coach who led LSU into its golden age and to the Women’s College World Series for the first time, had coached in Lafayette for 20 years before leaving to take the LSU job.
Girouard led the Southwestern Louisiana Lady Cajuns (I’m not doing a bit, that was still the name for 19 of the 20 seasons she coached there) to 10 postseason appearances and three Women’s College World Series. And those were all just in the last 13 years when the Cajuns were recognized as a D-1 program. The Cajuns had actually beaten LSU in a regional game in 2000, though both schools were eventually eliminated by other teams.
In 2001, Girouard’s first season in Baton Rouge, the Tigers won the SEC regular season and tournament titles. They stormed through the Baton Rouge Regional and the opponent that stood between them and the first ever trip to Oklahoma City was who else, but Louisiana-Lafayette. The Tigers narrowly won, 2-1 and advanced to the big dance.
The following year would see the Tigers and Cajuns play again, but this time on the other side of the Atchafalaya Basin. Though neither team made it out of the regional, LSU once again ended ULL’s season with a 5-2 win in the loser’s bracket.
The teams finally avoided each other in the 2003 postseason, but only because both clubs were good enough to host regionals. LSU fell at home, while the Cajuns went back to Oklahoma City for the first time in the post-Girouard era.
The next postseason meeting came in the 2006 Baton Rouge Regional. LSU narrowly won both games, the first a 7-6 10-inning thriller, then a 5-4 win to once again end ULL’s season. But two years later the Cajuns finally got their revenge, beating LSU 9-4 and 6-3 to win the 2008 Baton Rouge Regional.
The Cajuns continued to hold the advantage in 2010, where they beat LSU 1-0 in the winner’s bracket game. LSU lost to Texas A&M, ending hopes of a rematch. The Cajuns were once again Baton Rouge Regional champions.
A month into LSU’s 2011 campaign, Girouard announced she would be retiring at the end of the season. Following a coaching search that deserves its own oral history that we cannot get all the way into here, LSU hired FIU head coach Beth Torina, who brought the Tigers back to Oklahoma City in her very first season.
However, Torina’s sophomore season ended with the Cajuns once again besting the Tigers in the Baton Rouge Regional. This time the Tigers didn’t even score a run in the two losses.
The Tigers and Cajuns didn’t meet for the next three postseasons, but the schools combined to appear in all three Women’s College World Series during that span. Both teams kept winning but somehow dodging each other in late May. But fate forced them together yet again.
The Tigers and Cajuns both met in the Baton Rouge in four of the next six postseasons. LSU advanced and eliminated ULL three times over the next four seasons, but the Cajuns won a game all three times, never making it easy. LSU had to beat them twice to claw out the loser’s bracket in 2017, then had to play a winner-take-all Game 7 in 2018 and 2021 after the Cajuns staved off elimination in the regional final.
I know LSU’s history with Tulane football goes way back and LSU-ULL baseball certainly draws more eyeballs when they happen to collide in the postseason, but this softball rivalry has more history, championship implications and straight up hate than any other matchup between LSU and another Louisiana team. Tiger Park is one of the most friendly and welcoming environments on campus, but the likelihood of a fight breaking out nears Tiger Stadium student section levels when these teams meet in the postseason.
The Tigers and Cajuns will clash again in a winner’s bracket game today at noon. Three things are certain:
- Tiger Park is going to be packed to the brim.
- It is going to be hot as hell out there.
- Some damn good softball is going to be played.