Contributed by: LA Tech Athletic Communications
RUSTON, La. – The No. 18 Louisiana Tech baseball team came out on top over the visiting Little Rock Trojans on Tuesday evening, courtesy of a walk-off solo home run to dead center field in the bottom of the ninth inning from Hunter Wells, giving the Bulldogs a 5-4 victory in front of 1,064 from J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
“I’m proud of our guys for grinding it out, and finding a way to win tonight,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “It wasn’t a hitter’s night, but we stuck with it. In order to go where we want to go, these are games we need to win. That’s a good team over there, who has some big wins this season. We knew we were in a battle, and it wasn’t always pretty, but I never felt any panic from our guys, and I’m proud of the way we competed tonight.”
LA Tech (28-12) had been stymied by Little Rock (19-21) reliever Zach Ours, who had retired 12 consecutive batters, getting the an out away from taking the game into extra innings. However, Wells strolled to the plate with an 0-for-3 ledger next to his name, and promptly deposited the walk-off blast into the deepest part of the ballpark, sending Tech home victorious in its final midweek home game of the season.
With the win, Tech clinched the season sweep over the Trojans, and improved to 17-8 in the friendly confines of J.C. Love Field this season. The Bulldogs are now 11-2 in the month of April.
Tech got strong relief efforts from the bullpen after starter Kyle Griffen made it through five innings. The southpaw allowed three runs on three hits and struck out four, while walking a career high five. Griffen battled through five innings in his team-leading 25th appearance of the year, and exited with a 4-3 lead behind him.
Bryce Fagan entered in relief of Griffen in the sixth inning, and was sharp, working around an inherited runner at first and got a strikeout and a crucial 4-3 double-play ground ball, preserving the Tech lead at 4-3.
However, in the ensuing inning, the Trojans evened things back up after an RBI groundout from Christian Reyes plated Chase Coker, who reached via a walk, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch.
Jonathan Fincher entered with two outs in the seventh and got a three-pitch strikeout, and then worked a scoreless eighth, keeping the Bulldogs chances alive.
Right-hander Tyler Follis (2-1) pitched the ninth and struck out two, while preserving the tie ballgame into the bottom half as the winning pitcher of record.
Facing a 1-0 deficit after the top of the first, the Tech offense jumped on Little Rock starter Aaron Funk, plating three in the bottom of the opening frame courtesy of a two-RBI single to right from Parker Bates, who later came home to score on a wild pitch.
Little Rock tied things up in the top of the fifth off Griffen, after the left-hander allowed a pair of walks to come home to score on two two-out RBI singles.
Ours (4-1) picked up his first loss of the year, allowing just one hit on the walkoff slam. The right-hander tossed 4.0 innings of relief, struck out four and did not walk a batter.
Mason Mallard went 2-for-4 and scored a pair of runs, while Bates (2 RBI), Robinson (1 RBI) and Wells drove in a combined four runs.
Tech will face a quick turnaround, as the team will hit the road tomorrow evening for a midweek showdown with McNeese State from Lake Charles, Louisiana, at 6 p.m. The road contest begins a stretch of nine consecutive games away from home for the Bulldogs, who have posted an 11-4 mark on the road this season.