Contributed by: LA Tech Athletic Communications
RUSTON, La. – The Louisiana Tech baseball team put together a late rally in the bottom of the ninth, but came up just short, as WKU held on for a 5-4 Friday night win in the opening game of a three-game weekend Conference USA series from Ruston High School Baseball Field.
Trailing 5-3, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, LA Tech (30-20, 13-12 C-USA) put together a late rally off WKU (24-22-1, 15-9-1 C-USA) closer Bailey Sutton.
With one out, Tech freshman Philip Matulia worked a pinch-hit HBP, bringing up leadoff man Taylor Young, who dropped a perfectly-placed bunt single to third base. Then, both pinch-runner Seth White and Young advanced after a throwing error compounded the issue for the Hilltoppers. With two in scoring position, Hunter Wells laced an RBI single to center field, plating White, cutting the deficit down to just one.
However, with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, Sutton buckled down and induced strikeouts from both Tanner Huddleston and Steele Netterville, locking up the one-run WKU victory.
After the final out, both benches cleared after Sutton had words for Netterville, as it appeared Netterville’s backswing incidentally made contact with the WKU catcher, Collin Hopkins.
The Bulldogs owned an early 3-1 led in the contest, plating two in the first and one in the third off WKU starter, Reece Calvert (2-2). Tech first baseman and leading hitter, Mason Mallard, got the scoring with an RBI double (his fourth double in two games), plating Taylor Young. Then, shortly thereafter, Netterville came through with an RBI single to right, as Mallard contorted his slide around the play at the plate, giving Tech a 2-0 lead after one.
After WKU plated a run in the second, Tech came back in the bottom of the third with a run of its own on a Tanner Huddleston two-out double off the wall in left, plating Mallard all the way from first.
WKU got to Tech starter Matt Miller in the fourth inning, forcing his early exit after just 3.1 innings (87 pitches). The Hilltoppers plated two in the fourth to tie the game, then added two more in the fifth, taking their first lead at 5-3 after the four unanswered runs.
The Tech bats were then slowed by Calvert, who tossed the final five innings of scoreless baseball. The right-hander pitched a career-best 8.0 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits, while striking out seven and walked two.
Tyler Follis and Jonathan Fincher kept the WKU bats at bay in their three combined scoreless innings of relief. Follis went two innings, while striking out five and allowed just one hit, while Fincher pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two and walking in the process.
Tech was led offensively by Mason Mallard, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored.
The Bulldogs and Hilltoppers are tentatively scheduled for a 4 p.m. first pitch tomorrow afternoon with David Leal set to toe the rubber for Tech. The team will celebrate Leal and its 11 other seniors in a pregame ceremony 30 minutes prior to first pitch from Ruston High School Baseball Field.