RUSTON, La. – Tyler Follis (1-1) went six strong innings, allowing no runs, while scattering 3 hits, and striking out a career-high eight, while the Tech offense struck for six runs in the final three innings, en route to an 8-0 win over the visiting Grambling State Tigers Tuesday night from J.C. Love Field.
The Tech (8-5) starter began the game red hot, striking out seven batters in his first four innings of work. Grambling (6-7) put a couple men on board in both the first and second frames, but Follis worked quickly and efficiently, never seeming flustered in earning his second win of the season.
“It was great to see him (Follis) compete out there tonight,” head coach Lane Burroughsremarked. “He really didn’t have his best stuff in my opinion, but he competed. I’m very proud of how he responded from a lackluster effort last week. He works his tail off, and nobody was more disappointed with how he pitched over the weekend than he was.”
After the Follis gem, Tech’s starting pitching improved its combined ERA to a miniscule 0.96 mark. Tech’s five starters have now struck out 78 batters, while walking just 14 across 74.2 innings of work.
Junior transfer Braxton Smith came in for Follis in the seventh, and was electric in closing out the final three innings. Smith gave up just one hit and struck out four of the 11 batters he faced, needing only 32 pitches to polish off the victory.
Smith, who still has yet to allow a run this season, has now struck out 16 batters in 10.1 innings pitched. The Orange, Texas, native has walked just three during that time.
“Braxton is a legit closer,” Burroughs added. “When his slider is on, he is tough to hit, and he can punch out anybody. He’s a strikeout pitcher, and he was on tonight. That may have been the best the baseball has come out of his hand all year. The velocity was good. The command was good. The hitter will tell you everything you need to know, and the hitters were showing how good that breaking ball was tonight.”
As for the offense, Tech got on the board early in the first after Tanner Huddlestondrove home Mason Mallard, who had doubled to left center with two outs, for the first run of the game. The Bulldogs would tack on two more runs in the fourth and the sixth, after a sac flies from both Parker Batesand Hunter Wells, respectively.
Leading 3-0, the floodgates opened in the seventh, as Tech struck for four runs, blowing the game wide open. Mallard began the inning with great use of his speed, as the left fielder reached on an infield hit to the shortstop, then advanced to second on a balk from Grambling starter Elijah Saunders. Mallard then stole third and sat 90 feet away with nobody out.
Huddleston followed up with a walk, bringing up Chris Clayton, who laid down a perfectly placed bunt, scoring Mallard, who beat the underhand toss home from Saunders. Leading 4-0, with one out and runners on the corners, centerfielder Parker Bates mashed a triple down the right field line, scoring both Huddleston and Clayton, and blowing the game wide open at 6-0.
Saunders’ night would end after he issued a walk to pinch-hitter Steele Netterville and Kerry Boykins Jr. entered the contest in relief. He was immediately greeted by a Mason Robinson RBI single into left, capping the four-run frame, and giving Tech a 7-0 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Huddleston would add to his RBI tally with a moonshot solo HR that appeared to be a routine fly ball to left field, but just kept carrying out, for the third baseman’s ninth RBI in his last four games.
After entering last weekend’s Frisco Classic hitting just .176 with three RBI and 13 strikeouts, Huddleston has turned the page and is eight for his last 16, with nine RBI and seven runs scored. In his last four games, the Lucedale, Mississippi, native is getting on base at a .579 clip, while slugging an absurd 1.062.
“He had some great at-bats tonight,” Burroughs commented. “Right now he’s seeing the ball extremely well, and he’s a guy you want at the plate with the chance to drive in some runs. It was good to see him come through again.”
Tech will rest up tonight, before heading over to Monroe tomorrow evening with a Wednesday night contest against the Warhawks. David Leal (2-0) is set to make the start on the mound for the “Dogs. The game can be heard on SportsTalk 97.7 and on the LA Tech X Mobile App with Mark Cramer on the call. Be sure to follow @LATechBSB for in-game updates and breaking news on the Bulldogs.