By: Tyler Hotz (Louisiana Tech Athletic Communications)
RUSTON, La. – No. 14 Louisiana Tech hosts its second straight home Conference USA series at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park this weekend when the Bulldogs welcome Marshall for a four-game series. This weekend’s series will mark the end of an eight-game home stand for the Diamond Dogs.
Friday-Sunday’s series will mark the fifth of eight four-game conference series in 2021. All Conference USA series this season will consist of four games, one nine-inning game on Friday, two seven-inning games on Saturday and one final nine-inning game on Sunday.
Game times for the conference series at the Love Shack were adjusted Thursday afternoon due to inclement weather forecasted in Northern Louisiana on Friday evening. Friday’s game is now scheduled for 2 p.m., while Sunday’s contest is slated for 10 a.m. Saturday’s doubleheader will move up three hours from its original start time and begin at 11 a.m. Both games of Saturday’s doubleheader will be seven innings.
On Monday evening, Sunday’s game was moved up three hours to 10 a.m. due to travel accommodations for Marshall’s flight home to Huntington, West Virginia.
All four games will stream live on CUSA.tv. Sunday’s contest will mark the two-year anniversary of the EF-3 tornado that caused major damage to Louisiana Tech’s baseball, softball, soccer and tennis complexes.
Game Times (Friday-Sunday): 2 p.m. | 11 a.m. & then Game 2 | 10 a.m.
Location: J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park (Ruston, La.)
Live Video Stream: CUSA.tv
Radio/Streamed Radio Broadcast: KNBB 97.7 FM (Friday-Sunday) | latechsports.com (Friday-Sunday)
Projected Starting Pitchers (Friday-Sunday)
LA Tech:Jonathan Fincher (LHP), Jarret Whorff (RHP), Cade Gibson (LHP), TBD
Fincher: 6-0, 1.67 ERA, 59.1 IP, 49 K, 12 BB
Whorff (1): 6-1, 2.98 ERA, 54.1 IP, 43 K, 19 BB
Gibson (2): 3-3, 6.18 ERA, 39.1 IP, 37 K, 11 BB
Marshall: RHP Chad Heiner, TBD, RHP Patrick Copen, RHP Zac Addkison
Heiner: 0-5, 6.30 ERA, 30.0 IP, 28 K, 11 BB
Copen (2): 0-1, 3.86 ERA, 11.2 IP, 11 K, 7 BB
Addkison: 0-0, 3.38 ERA, 10.2 IP, 12 K, 5 BB
About the No. 14 Diamond Dogs:
For the fifth straight week, Louisiana Tech ranks inside of the top 25 in multiple national polls. The Bulldogs split a home series against Southern Miss, who ranks No. 16 in this week’s updated RPI polls. LA Tech’s series split helped the Bulldogs rank inside the top 25 in five major polls — D1Baseball (14), NCBWA (15), USA Today Sports Coaches Poll (15), Baseball America (19) and Perfect Game (21). In terms of RPI, LA Tech ranks No. 9 in the most updated NCAA RPI rankings. Tech is one of four C-USA teams inside the top 28 with Charlotte (18) and Old Dominion (28) rounding out the rankings.
The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles played an incredibly even series at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park over the weekend with LA Tech edging Southern Miss by just a single run at 26-25 over the four-game series. Due to rain on Friday, the Diamond Dogs and Golden Eagles played a doubleheader on both Saturday and Sunday to get in all four games of the C-USA series.
In game one on Saturday, an eighth-inning home run from USM’s Reed Trimble served as the decisive run as Southern Miss held on for a 4-3 victory to open the series. The Bulldogs struck first in the series opener, but the Golden Eagles rattled off three straight runs to take a 3-1 inning in the sixth. Leadoff batter Taylor Young and two-hole hitter Hunter Wells helped tie the contest at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth before Trimble’s homer in the eighth secured the road victory for Southern Miss.
For the second time this season, the Bulldogs registered a victory in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader to notch the doubleheader split against Southern Miss. After Southern Miss tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fifth, LA Tech answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half to push the game to its final tally. Back-to-back doubles from Wells and centerfielder Parker Bates scored the two runs to give the Bulldogs a 5-3 lead. Reliever Landon Tomkins nailed down his fourth save of the season after allowing just one hit and one walk over the final 2.1 frames.
Both games in Sunday’s doubleheader also came down to the final at-bats. After jumping ahead 5-0 behind a three-run homer in the top of the first, LA Tech immediately cut into Southern Miss’ lead with a four spot in the bottom half. Bates, Philip Matulia and Jorge Corona all blasted home runs in the high-scoring 12-11 loss in Sunday’s first game. More half innings featured runs scored (eight) than half innings without at least one Golden Eagle or Bulldog crossing home plate.
In the series finale, the Bulldogs once again clawed their way back for a key conference victory, helping Tech move to 5-3 on the season against Southern Miss. Four runs in the top of the sixth erased a 5-2 lead for the Bulldogs, giving USM its first lead since the top of the first. Down to its final out of the series, first baseman Manny Garcia delivered one of the biggest hits of LA Tech’s 2021 season, blasting an 0-1 pitch over the wall in left field for a two-run walk-off home run.
Garcia went 4-for-4 in game two on Sunday with two homers and four RBI, making him the first Bulldog since Mason Robinson accomplished the feat exactly three years ago. Garcia’s 7-for-16 performance over the weekend helped him become the third different Bulldog this season to be named the LSWA Hitter of the Week.
Young, Tech’s leadoff batter for all 35 games this season, ranks first in the nation with 47 runs scored. The second baseman has posted an incredible .359/.429/.583 (AVG/OBP/SLG) triple slash in 2021. Young is one of six Bulldog sluggers to have a .320 batting average or better with at least 60 at-bats this season.
Despite having his 20-game hit streak come to an end in Sunday’s series finale, Wells ranks tied for 11th in the nation (T-first in the C-USA) with 52 hits this season. Bates, a fellow senior anchoring LA Tech’s offense, has reached base in 21 straight games dating back to a 13-1 win over No. 4 Ole Miss. The centerfielder has tallied a hit in 19 of 21 games during his extended hot streak.
The Bulldogs hold an 11-8 edge in the all-time series over Marshall, playing all 19 games against the Thundering Herd since joining the C-USA back in 2014. LA Tech is 8-2 in the past 10 games against Marshall and will have the opportunity to help head coach Lane Burroughs win his 150th game as LA Tech’s head coach this weekend. Burroughs sits four away from the milestone as he holds a 146-79 record in his fifth season in charge of the Diamond Dogs.
Marshall notched its first two Conference USA victories this past weekend with a series split against FIU. The Thundering Herd tallied a 6-1 win in Saturday’s first game of the doubleheader before holding on for a 10-8 win over the Panthers in Sunday’s series finale.
Sophomore Luke Edwards leads Marshall with a .312 batting average. Freshman catcher Ryan Leitch tops the Thundering Herd lineup with six homers in just 16 games played this season. Shortstop Geordon Blanton paces Marshall with 22 runs scored and seven stolen bases, serving as the leadoff batter for Marshall’s offense.
On the mound, Marshall’s pitching staff holds a 7.07 ERA as a team. The Thundering Herd have allowed 133 walks in a combined 220.1 innings pitched. Reliever D’Andre Knight leads the Herd with two saves, striking out 13 batters while allowing six walks.
The Thundering Herd notched their best win over West Virginia (No. 91 in the most updated RPI rankings), scoring the first seven runs of the game in a 7-1 victory.
Head coach Jeff Waggoner enters his 14th year in charge of Marshall’s program, holding a 310-422-1 record over his Thundering Herd career. Waggoner led the Herd to a 29-28 record in 2019 and a 34-21 record in 2016.