EDINBURG — The University of Texas at Pan-American’s Andre Rabouin didn’t know he was going to pitch in the College World Series until the night before.
Coach Al Ogletree told the right-hander he would be taking the mound against Harvard.
“He (Ogletree) checked out their hitters and found they had mostly left-handers,” Rabouin, 21 at the time, recently recalled. “I had butterflies. Harvard was ranked fifth or sixth in the nation.”
It was 1971 and the Broncs were in Omaha, Nebraska. They had split their first two games so one more loss meant heading home to Edinburg.
There were about 20,000 people crammed into Rosenblatt Stadium that day. They witnessed a classic pitchers’ duel.
Rabouin was holding off the Crimson with a steady mix of fastballs, curves and the occasional slider (a pitch he learned from teammate Gary Doyle). His confidence grew as the contest went on.
“Mentally, I was right in the game,” Rabouin said. “I can still feel that. It only happened a couple of times in my pro career. I knew everything was good.”
Rabouin wasn’t perfect. He walked six batters that day but fanned 11 — a pattern that dogged him his whole college career.
“It was what they called effectively wild,” he said with a laugh. “I threw hard enough to get by.”
He also had the nation’s No. 1-ranked defense that year behind him.
“There was no better club in the country defensively,” Rabouin said.
He got into trouble several times when Harvard put men on base. At one point, third baseman Reggie Tredaway made a spectacular catch of a pop up while practically up against the railing of the Harvard dugout to get out of the third inning.
“That (Tredaway’s catch) got everybody pumped,” Rabouin said. “That was a special play.”
“His fastball had velocity and his curve ball had depth,” Tredaway said recently. “He competed with every pitch.”
Despite getting into “situations,” Rabouin said Ogletree never thought about taking him out.
“I would have been nervous if I had been coach,” Rabouin said. “Coach had confidence in me to finish the game.”
The game was still scoreless in the sixth inning when Pan American’s Jesse Banda singled home Bo McNurlen from second base, giving the Broncs a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the ninth, Harvard loaded the bases with one out. The Crimson’s third batter in the order was up with the fourth on deck.
Rabouin struck out both men for a four-hit, shutout victory. It was his first complete game in college and would be the only shutout in the CWS that year, Rabouin said.
His teammates gave him a standing ovation on the team bus afterward, according to Ogletree in his 2008 book “Take Two, Hit to Right and Slide Against the Wind.”
Pan American University (the school had changed its name from Pan American College earlier that spring) would go down fighting, losing 8-6 in the fourth game to Southern Illinois, knocking the Broncs out of the tournament.
Still, the achievement of advancing to college baseball’s biggest stage is etched in university lore.
Rabouin, who pitched for the Broncs from 1969-72 and enjoyed a lengthy career playing and coaching in the professional ranks, will be inducted into the UTRGV Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday in a special ceremony.
“I’m honored to be inducted with so many other great athletes,” Rabouin, 69, said in a UTRGV press release. “During the four years that I spent with Coach Ogletree, he was like a father to me. I enjoyed every minute of it. I also want to thank my teammates. Without them, I couldn’t have done anything. I played with some really good ones.”
He was an outstanding pitcher for Pan American, posting an ERA of 2.60 his junior year in 1971 and a 0.93 ERA in 1972 — the fourth-lowest in program history. As a Broncs player, he struck out 223 batters (sixth-best in program history) and won 20 games.
“Andre was an awesome teammate and team player as well as a fierce competitor on the field,” Tredaway, himself a member of the UTRGV Hall, said. “He was a true gentleman back then and still is today.”
Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1972, life in the pros became an odyssey that took him to three different minor leagues plus pro leagues in a half-dozen Latin American nations. He played his last game in Colombia in 1992.
His coaching stints included stops in the majors with the Royals, Blue Jays, Reds and Orioles. He also coached in the Independent Atlantic League plus in Mexico, China, Panama and Taiwan along with three different college teams in the United States.
He retired from coaching in 2016 and now lives in Lewisville, Texas.
Rabouin is the eighth member of the 1971 baseball team to be inducted into the UTRGV Athletic Hall of Fame individually. The team as a whole was inducted in 2009.