By: Tyler Hotz (Louisiana Tech Athletics)
RUSTON, La (Louisiana Tech Athletics) – A three-run answer in the top of the seventh inning proved to be the difference for UTSA as the Roadrunners notched a 7-5 victory over the Bulldogs on Friday night at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
LA Tech (33-14, 19-8 C-USA) jumped out to its first lead of the game behind three runs in the bottom of the sixth, turning a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead after six frames at the Love Shack. Leadoff batter Taylor Young kickstarted the rally in the sixth with an infield single to open the inning. Third baseman Hunter Wells and centerfielder Parker Bates then drew a pair of walks to load the bases with nobody out.
Cleanup batter Manny Garcia, who finished the night with two hits and a pair of RBI, smacked an RBI single on a 1-0 count to trim UTSA’s lead to 4-3. After a ground-ball double play allowed the tying run to score at the expense of a pair of outs, left fielder Cole McConnell crushed a double into right center on a 3-2 count to bring home Bates for the go-ahead run.
UTSA (22-21, 14-14 C-USA) then answered LA Tech’s three spot in the bottom of the sixth with three runs in the top of the seventh. Similar to the Bulldogs’ scoring barrage in the sixth, the Roadrunners opened the inning with an infield single and a pair of walks. A bases-loaded walk tied the game before a ground ball and then a wild pitch allowed the final two runs of the ballgame to score.
Facing an early 4-0 deficit, the Bulldogs pushed across two runs in the fourth behind RBI singles from Garcia and McConnell. The duo combined for all four of Tech’s runs batted in and tallied five hits between them.
“Cole’s one of our best hitters, and his skillset is a professional skillset,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s right or left, you don’t have to worry about him.”
The Roadrunners held on in the bottom of the ninth after McConnell singled and then right fielder Philip Matulia worked a walk to bring the game-winning run to the plate. The Bulldogs, however, were unable to move McConnell and Matulia any farther as UTSA reliever Arturo Guajardo notched the final three outs to nail down his second save of the season.
Bulldog starting pitcher Jonathan Fincher was handed his first loss of the season on Friday, ending a streak of 12 straight games to open the season with either notching a win or no decision. Right-handed reliever Kyle Crigger allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out four Roadrunners over his three innings out of the LA Tech bullpen.
The Bulldogs will look to bounce back in Saturday’s doubleheader. Tech’s first seven-inning game of the afternoon will begin at 2 p.m. as right-hander Ryan Jennings will toe the rubber for the Diamond Dogs.