New Orleans limps into Austin this weekend with a five-game losing streak, but that doesn’t accurately reflect what the Privateers’ head coach Blake Dean has done for this program.
New Orleans finished the 2014 season 11–38, and the Privateers’ conference record was even worse — 2–28.
Then, in 2015, New Orleans brought 27-year-old Dean on board as the interim head coach. One year later, the Privateers hired Dean as the permanent head coach and finished the season with a record of 31–26 (14–16 conference).
Texas head coach David Pierce faced New Orleans in 2015–2016 when Pierce served as the head coach for Tulane. Pierce said the program struggled early on, but that Dean continues to better the Privateers’ ball club as they prepare for the three-game series with the Longhorns at UFCU Disch-Falk Field this weekend.
“He does a tremendous job with the resources that they have,” Pierce said. “He’s a great hitting instructor so they can really hit. He’s got a veteran team on the field and his pitching is getting better. So this is the team that is going to have a little edge about them, and they are going to come out here and compete and try to beat us.”
Dean spent his playing days at LSU, where he competed against Pierce’s squad when Pierce was the assistant coach of Rice. The two met in the 2008 College World Series where Dean would play a significant role in the Tigers’ victory over Rice.
“Our most familiar relationship is in Omaha,” Pierce said. “When I was at Rice he hit a double off the left center field wall and eliminated us — so, not fond memories.”
Dean hit a three-run double in the bottom of the ninth to give LSU the 6-5 walk-off win, and Pierce hasn’t returned to Omaha since.
Now, the two meet again. This time, Dean will be in the dugout as the head coach for New Orleans.
However, Pierce faces a difficult task in trying to convince his ball club that the matchup with New Orleans is just as important as a conference matchup. Pierce said it’s a challenge because a mid-major team always has games against Power Five schools circled on their calendar.
“That game is marked and you try to not look at it like that, but it’s a program builder if you can win against a UT or a bigger school,” Pierce said. “So it’s something that our guys have to fight against coming off a big conference series in the Big 12 — the No. 1 or No. 2 conference in the country, and then to come in and play a mid-major.”
With only three conference series remaining, including one against No. 6 TCU and another against No. 21 West Virginia, every win matters. Teams across the country are currently trying to build their resume with quality wins before the conclusion of the season. Pierce said his team is finally starting to understand that.
“It’s just as big as any other game — we want to win,” junior catcher Michael Cantu said. “We want to be 1-0 every game … wins this late in the season are hard to come by, especially with our schedule ahead of us, and just to get any wins that we fight for is big for us.”