RUSTON, La. – The Louisiana Tech baseball team rallied back from a 5-1 deficit and captured a 7-6 walk-off victory on a sac fly from junior centerfielder Parker Bates, clinching the weekend Conference USA series over the visiting UAB Blazers on Saturday afternoon from J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
The Bulldogs (16-10, 4-4 C-USA) found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-1 deficit heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, but scored one in the seventh, three in the eighth and two in the ninth, while capturing their first home league series of 2019.
UAB (12-16, 1-7 C-USA) starter Tanner Rusk held the Bulldog offense for most of the contest, allowing just one unearned run through the first six innings. Tech starter Logan Robbins posted three consecutive shutout innings to begin the game, before the Blazers plated three in the top of the fourth.
In the fourth, the Blazers began the inning with a sac fly to right, tying the game at one. Then, with runners at second and third, Robbins induced a routine ground ball to short, that was thrown away by Tech shortstop Taylor Young, allowing two unearned runs to score, giving the Blazers a 3-1 lead.
Both teams were held off the board in the fifth and sixth innings, before UAB tacked on two more off the Tech bullpen to extend the lead to 5-1.
In the top of the eighth, Tech reliever Bryce Fagan retired the Blazers in order for the first time all day. Then in the bottom of the eighth, the Tech bats heated up via three consecutive singles from Young, Wells and Bates loading the bases with nobody out. Then, Tech third baseman Tanner Huddleston smacked a two run-double to right-center, igniting the crowd and giving Tech life, trailing now just 5-4.
After an intentional walk to Steele Netterville, which loaded the bases, Tech captain Chris Clayton lifted a fly ball deep to center field, easily deep enough to score Bates from third, tying the game at five.
Now in a 5-5 tie ballgame, Tech called on closer Braxton Smith to pitch his second game in a row in the top of the ninth. However, the Blazers scored a run off the Tech late reliever, on an RBI single back up the middle from second baseman Blake Johnson.
Trailing once again, down to their final three outs, the Bulldog offense again came up with a final response.
Young led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to left center, followed by a single to right from Hunter Wells. Then, with nobody out, Tech’s leading hitter, Mason Mallard, lined his fourth hit of the day – a double into left center, easily scoring Young from second, and tying the game at five. Then, the ensuing batter, Parker Bates, lofted a fly ball deep to center field, easily scoring Wells from third, and giving Tech the dramatic walk-off victory.
The top third of the Tech lineup in Young (2-for-4), Wells (2-for-4) and Mallard (4-for-5) combined for eight of Tech’s 12 hits, while scoring four of its seven runs. Freshman Philip Matulia joined the three multi-hit Bulldogs with a 2-for-4 effort along with an RBI and a run scored. Six different Bulldogs produced at least one RBI, while the lineup struck out just twice.
Tech starter Logan Robbins tossed 5.1 innings, allowing just one earned run, while scattering seven hits. Tyler Follis, Quinton Logan, Beau Billings and Bryce Fagan bridged the gap in relief, while Braxton Smith was the winning pitcher of record when the Bulldogs took the final lead.
Tech and UAB will return to action in the third and final game of the weekend, set for a 1 p.m. first pitch on Sunday afternoon.