RUSTON, La. – A strong pitching performance from right-hander Ryan Jennings and clutch hitting from seniors Hunter Wells and Parker Bates helped Louisiana Tech's baseball team split Saturday's doubleheader at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
No. 13 LA Tech (25-8, 11-3 C-USA) knocked off Southern Miss 5-3 in the second game on Saturday, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fifth to break a 3-3 tie. The Bulldogs have now won 17 of their past 20 games and will have another opportunity on Sunday to win their fourth straight Conference USA series to open the 2021 season.
Southern Miss (22-11, 9-4 C-USA) won game one 4-3 in a back-and-forth contest at the Love Shack. USM's Reed Trible broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning with the Golden Eagles' second homer of the first contest.
The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles will play a pair of seven-inning games Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. Starting pitchers Cade Gibson and Jarret Whorff will toe the rubber for LA Tech in Sunday's doubleheader.
Game 2 Recap: No. 13 LA Tech 5, Southern Miss 3
A pair of Bulldog runs in the fifth inning proved to be the difference in game two on Saturday as LA Tech earned the doubleheader split with the Golden Eagles. Extra-base power fueled LA Tech's victory to close the day on Saturday, knocking in four of its five runs on extra-base hits in game two.
Facing a 1-2 count with a runner on first and one away, right fielder Philip Matulia launched a moon shot over the wall in right field to open the scoring. Matulia's two-run homer helped the Diamond Dogs jump ahead 2-0 in the second inning after first baseman Manny Garcia opened the team at-bat with a single on the first pitch of the bottom of the second.
The Bulldog first baseman extended Tech's lead in the third with a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring leadoff man Taylor Young from third after he opened the inning with an infield single. Garcia's third sacrifice fly of 2021 is also LA Tech's 20th of the season.
The Golden Eagles answered LA Tech's three-run barrage over two innings with the same scoring run of their own, tallying three runs between the fourth and fifth innings to knot the game at 3-3. Reece Ewing scored the first USM run on a wild pitch in the fourth inning before third baseman Danny Lynch hit a two-run shot to center field to tie the game in the top of the fifth.
The top of the Diamond Dog batting order halted Southern Miss' momentum in the bottom half of the fifth, answering the USM scoring run with two runs of their own. Young beat out his second infield single of game two to put a runner on first for Wells, who once again registered a clutch hit with a go-ahead double down the right-field line. Bates then doubled LA Tech's advantage with a third straight Bulldog hit, splitting the gap in left center on an 0-1 pitch for an RBI double.
With a 5-3 lead, starting pitcher Ryan Jennings sat down the Golden Eagles in order in the sixth. Jennings tallied two of his career-high nine strikeouts in the frame to slice through USM's batting order. The right-hander notched his third pitching victory of the season after tossing 6.2 innings with nine strikeouts and no walks.
"Ryan Jennings pitched out of some jams, and I'm pretty hard on Ryan, I expect him to be great every time because I know he can be," head coach Lane Burroughs said. "You look at the whole body of work, I thought he worked out of some tough situations and carried us deep into the game."
Right-handed reliever Landon Tomkins sealed LA Tech's win with a seven-out save, allowing just one hit and one walk in 2.1 innings of relief. Tomkins fanned two Golden Eagles and allowed just one base runner over the final two frames of his dominant performance.
Wells' RBI double in fifth inning extended his hitting streak to a league-best 19 games. Wells is now batting .370 for the season and a scalding-hot .431 in 14 conference games this season.
Game 1 Recap: Southern Miss 4, No. 13 LA Tech 3
Southern Miss denied the Bulldogs of their first C-USA series-opening win of the season, rallying from an early 1-0 deficit in a 4-3 road victory. The long ball hurt the Bulldogs in Saturday's opening contest with a two-run shot from USM first baseman Christopher Sargent and Reed Trimble's solo homer in the eighth inning comprising three of Southern Miss' four runs in the ballgame.
The Diamond Dogs struck first in their sixth straight game when Hunter Wells blasted his team-leading seventh home run of the season to make it 1-0 Bulldogs in the first. Wells' solo shot extended his hitting streak to a conference-best 18 games.
After Christopher Sargent's two run blast gave Southern Miss a 2-1 lead in the fourth, an RBI single from Reece Ewing extended the visitor's lead to 3-1 in the sixth.
The Bulldogs, however, rallied with a two spot in the bottom half, knotting the game at 3-3 behind clutch hitting from the top of Tech's order. Leadoff man Taylor Young delivered a one-out single to center field on a 1-2 pitch before Wells then doubled Young home with a rocket to left center.
After the 'Dogs cut it to 3-2, Southern Miss brought in bullpen standout Ryan Och to face centerfielder Parker Bates and first baseman Manny Garcia. Bates' fielder's choice put two out in the frame before Garcia doubled to left center on a full count, tying the game at 3-3.
Och remained in the game for the final three frames, helping him move 4-0 on the season. The Bulldogs outhit the Golden Eagles 7-4 in game one, but USM's pair of homers proved to be the difference in the series opener.