Mike Silva made a true believer out of Nicholls State athletic director Jonathan Terrell the first time they talked, even though they barely discussed baseball.
“We were laughing, talking about kids and felt an immediate friendship,” Terrell said of the 30-plus-minute conversation when he called Silva — then the associate coach and pitching coach at Louisiana Tech — to set up an interview for the Colonels’ open coaching position in 2021. “I tell it all the time, and people don’t like to say it, but he’s one of my best friends. That was instantly. Mike’s been awesome. The baseball I call lagniappe, but I figured that would come because good things happen to good people.”
Two years later, anyone with even a peripheral interest in the Colonels’ baseball program understands exactly what Terrell felt.
When Nicholls (34-22) takes on top seed Alabama (40-19) in the Tuscaloosa regional at 6 p.m. Friday, the Colonels will be seeking yet another first in a year of historical achievements. Never having won the Southland Conference regular-season title, they just did it in Silva’s second year. After not winning the Southland tournament since 1998, they swept through the event.
Any victory in Tuscaloosa would be unprecedented, too. They are 0-6 in three previous regional appearances, but the Colonels will be full of confidence facing Alabama, No. 2 seed Boston College or No. 3 seed Troy after beating LSU at Alex Box Stadium in late April and becoming the first Southland team since 2016 to back up its regular-season title with a tournament championship.
The accomplishment is even more impressive considering Nicholls was picked last in the league a year ago after finishing with losing records in four of the five seasons before Silva arrived.
The Colonels were tabbed sixth this year despite surprising everyone by finishing fourth in 2022.
“He’s a brilliant mind,” Terrell said. “He has a bright future ahead of him, that’s for sure.”
Terrell hopes that future is in Thibodaux, but he knows Silva will have plenty of suitors. After establishing himself as an up-and-comer in three years at Louisiana Tech, he arrived with a plan and executed it perfectly.
“I believed in the young men in our locker room the first time I met them,” Silva said. “We felt like we were close last year, but we were a few pieces away. We added them, and now here we are. We felt like we were going to be in this position. It’s surreal, but we did expect it.”
Silva checks all of the boxes as a talent evaluator, motivator and decision-maker, and his team is well-rounded as a result. Nicholls, which is second in the Southland in fielding percentage, makes spectacular plays look routine, as shortstop Parker Coddou did with a running catch of a blooper against LSU that turned a would-be game-winning hit into a game-ending double play. The Colonels hit .315 in league play when no else batted .300. Their pitchers walked only four batters in 41 innings during the Southland tournament.
“(Silva’s) a winner,” said center fielder Wes Toups, a Thibodaux native who began his career at LSU and was at Nicholls for a year before Silva was hired. “He genuinely loves each one of us. He got everyone on the team to buy in coming from a situation where it really wasn’t fun playing baseball before. I love that guy. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done in my hometown.”
Southland tournament MVP Xane Washington, a redshirt senior, is hitting .379 after batting .298 last season. In 2021, before Silva began coaching him, his average was a paltry .189.
“He’s a leader, and you can’t teach that,” Washington said. “He just held me accountable, saying I’ve got to produce and if I didn’t, you might as well have a younger guy getting more playing time. That just sat with me, and I had to improve my game.”
Silva talks about the team’s togetherness constantly, and his players do, too.
“I got a text from a supporter of our program, and he said it was unique that when the guys are doing interviews, they sound like you,” Silva said. “I said we are a family. We really care about each other. It’s unbelievable what these young men mean to me.”
They plan to repay him in Tuscaloosa as a lively No. 4 seed.
“I wouldn’t sleep on the Colonels,” Toups said. “I firmly believe we haven’t played our best baseball yet. Hopefully that’s still ahead of us. You can’t count us out.”