MONROE, La. – Louisiana Tech pitcher David Leal continued his dominant stretch to open the 2018 season, and wrapped up his third-straight quality start, in Tech’s 7-0 triumph over the UL-Monroe Warhawks on Wednesday evening from Warhawk Field.
The left-hander tossed eight shutout innings, while scattering just four hits and striking out eight, including five punchouts in his final three innings of work.
“Leal was the story of the night once again,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “He’s given us three unbelievable starts. He did it against McNeese, Northwestern State, and again tonight. He had pinpoint control tonight. ULM made him work though. They weren’t swinging at his changeup tonight, but he flipped a couple breaking balls in there for strikes and commanded his fastball, especially glove side. That’s his forte and that’s how he gets people out.”
Leal improved on his already gaudy numbers this season, and has now thrown 21.2 innings, allowing just one earned run, striking out 26, and walking just two batters. The Tech starter seemingly gets stronger as he gets deeper into ballgames, as evidenced in tonight’s contest.
In his final three innings, Leal allowed just one baserunner and struck out five of his eight batters on the evening.
“I think David has gotten stronger as the game progresses in each of his three starts,” Burroughs remarked. “I always tell our pitchers to keep getting stronger after every inning. He’s one of those guys who consistently gets stronger as the game goes on.”
With the quality start, Tech’s five starting pitchers have combined for a 0.87 ERA. They have now allowed just eight earned runs across 82.2 innings pitched and have struck out 86 batters while walking just 16.
Chris Clayton buoyed the Tech (9-5) offense on the evening, pounding home a career-high four RBI. West Monroe native, Taylor Young, impressed in front of plenty of friends in family, as he notched his first-career base hit, and added a couple more for good measure, on a 3-for-4 night at the dish. Centerfielder Parker Bates also continued to swing a hot bat, going 4-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. The Tech offense banged out 13 hits and had a man on base in eight of nine innings tonight.
“This might have been our most complete game we’ve played all year,” Burroughs added. “We defended well – turned three double plays. We dominated average plays. The thing that I’m most proud of tonight is that we got runners in from third with less than two outs. We’ve been struggling to do that as of late. We also got some key two-out hits, and I’m proud of our guys for that. I thought we were outstanding in getting runners in tonight.”
The Tech offense got going early in the top of the third, as Chris Clayton delivered on the two-out hit that has seemingly eluded the Tech offense all season. The catcher singled up the middle past a diving shortstop, and scoring both Wells and Skelton, and giving Tech an early 2-0 edge.
The Bulldogs would then add a run in the fourth as Mason Robinson came home on a wild pitch. Tech added to the 3-0 lead in the fifth, as Clayton grounded out to third, scoring Huddleston.
Neither offense accomplished much through the late innings, before the ‘Dogs got to the ULM (9-3) bullpen in the top of the ninth, notching three runs on four hits.
Huddleston led the inning off with a double, and immediately advanced to third on a passed ball. Clayton wasted no time in driving home his fourth run of the night, scalding a double down the left field line, scoring Huddleston. Parker Bates strolled to the plate with a 5-0 lead and a man on second, and immediately singled to right, scoring Clayton and pushing the Tech lead to 6-0. A Robinson RBI groundout scored Bates, who had advanced to third, courtesy of a Taylor Young double, capping off a three-run ninth.
Kyle Griffen entered the game in the ninth for Leal, and calmly worked around a leadoff single for a clean inning, and preserving the Tech shutout victory.
Coming into the contest, the Warhawk offense was averaging just under nine runs per game, and had not been shut out all season.
In its first shutout of 2018, the Tech pitching staff lowered its team ERA to 2.07.
Tech will return to J.C. Love Field this weekend for a three-game set with Houston Baptist, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday night. Mark Cramer will bring you the call on 97.7 FM for Friday, and Dave Nitz will return to his baseball duties for the final two games of the series and the rest of the season.
Be sure to keep an eye on LATechSports.com for all the latest on Tech athletics, and follow @LATechBSB for in-game updates and breaking news regarding the Louisiana Tech baseball team.