By: Tyler Hotz (Louisiana Tech Athletics)
RUSTON, La (Louisiana Tech Athletics)– The rally train rolls on.
With the train roaring past J.C. Love Field’s right-field wall, senior Parker Bates belted a three-run walk-off home run to right field on a 2-2 count to give the No. 14 Bulldogs their first home doubleheader sweep of the 2021 season. Bates’ seventh homer of the year marked LA Tech’s second victory via a walk-off home run at the Love Shack this season.
Not only did Bates’ blast tally win No. 35 on the season for LA Tech, it also kept the Diamond Dogs alive in the C-USA’s West Division title race. With just one conference game to go apiece, LA Tech can clinch the West Division crown with a win on Sunday and a Southern Miss defeat at Florida Atlantic. Due to flight back to Hattiesburg, Sunday’s game in Boca Raton, Florida, will begin at 11 a.m. CT, two hours before the Bulldogs begin their series finale against the Roadrunners.
LA Tech (35-14, 21-8 C-USA) got back in the win column behind a dominant pitching performance from right-hander Ryan Jennings in game one. Jennings earned his fifth victory of the season after allowing just three hits and one earned run over seven innings on the mound.
The Diamond Dogs will look to notch the series victory on Sunday with right-hander Jarret Whorff on the mound. LA Tech has won its past 10 weekend contests with the Winnsboro, Texas native toeing the rubber.
Game 2 Recap: No. 14 LA Tech 10, UTSA 7 (Eight Innings)
Before Parker Bates crushed a walk-off homer in the eighth, he helped the Bulldogs notch the first run of game two with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first. UTSA (22-23, 14-16 C-USA) answered Tech’s tally in the first with three runs in the top of the second to build a 3-1 lead.
Two innings later, designated hitter Steele Netterville lifted his team-best ninth home run over the wall in left field to trim the Roadrunners’ lead to a single run at 3-2. UTSA three-hole batter Nick Thornquist, however, once again answered Tech’s run in the fourth with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth, making it 4-2 UTSA entering the bottom of the inning.
With the top of the order stepping to the plate, the Bulldogs cashed in with a five-run fifth inning to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 7-4 lead. Back-to-back singles from Taylor Young and Hunter Wells opened the scoring barrage before Bates loaded the base with the 42nd HBP of his career. After just missing a grand slam earlier in his at-bat, cleanup hitter Manny Garcia kept the seventh pitch of his at-bat fair down the left-field line for a two-RBI double, knotting the game at 4-4.
Left fielder Cole McConnell then put the Bulldogs in front with an RBI single to left field, making it three Bulldogs runs in the frame before the first out was recorded. A bases-loaded walk from Netterville and an RBI on a fielder’s choice off the bat of catcher Jorge Corona stretched Tech’s lead to 7-4.
Despite facing their final out with just one runner on base, the Roadrunners were able to finally chase Bulldog starter Cade Gibson after an RBI single from Dylan Rock trimmed Tech’s advantage to 7-5. After a walk loaded the bases, UTSA cleanup batter Griffin Paxton smacked a double down the left field line to tie the game at 7-7. McConnell and shortstop Alex Ray kept the game tied with an excellent relay from near the wall in left field all the way to Corona at home plate to tag out Thornquist.
In extra innings, right-handed reliever Greg Martinez recorded the final out of the top of the eighth to help the Bulldogs escape a runners-at-the-corners’ situation. Martinez struck out UTSA’s Chris Shull to set up the top of LA Tech’s order for the walk-off victory. The right-hander moved to 4-0 on the season following Bates’ walk-off home run.
Just like in the fifth, Young and Wells reached to put pressure on the Roadrunner bullpen. Bates’ three-run shot to right field was Tech’s 54th home run of the season and first of this weekend’s series.
Game 1 Recap: No. 14 LA Tech 4, UTSA 1 (Seven Innings)
Offense was the story in game two, but lockdown pitching and efficient defense powered the Bulldogs to a bounce-back victory in game one.
After allowing one run in the top of the first, Bulldog starting pitcher Ryan Jennings locked in, posting six straight scoreless frames to register his second seven-inning complete game over his past two Conference USA starts. The New Braunfels, Texas native faced the minimum in four of his seven frames, tallying a pair of strikeouts and allowing just one walk in the victory. Jennings induced 10 ground-ball outs and eight flyouts in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Bulldogs scored in just one inning in game one, but they made it count with a four spot to give Jennings all the support he needed. Catcher Jorge Corona tied the ballgame with an RBI on a fielder’s choice. Another fielder’s choice, this time on a chopper from shortstop Alex Ray, helped the Diamond Dogs take the lead for good at 2-1 in the fourth.
LA Tech extended its lead in the inning with RBI singles from third baseman Hunter Wells and centerfielder Parker Bates.
Between games one and two, Bates and Wells combined for nine hits, five RBI and four runs scored. Wells’ six-hit day raised his batting average all the way to .366 on the season.