RUSTON, La. – Three multi-run home runs from Bulldog bats powered No. 18 Louisiana Tech to a 14-4 run-rule victory in eight innings over No. 6 seed WKU on Friday night at J.C. Love Field, helping the Bulldogs avoid elimination and advance to another showdown against No. 3 seed Southern Miss in the C-USA Tournament on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
The Diamond Dogs (38-17) will face the Golden Eagles (37-17) for the 10th time this season. With a victory, LA Tech would then face Southern Miss at 7:30 p.m. for a winner-take-all ticket to the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Baseball Championship game on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Right fielder Philip Matulia launched the first Bulldog home run with two outs in the second, opening the scoring at Love Shack on Friday evening. Matulia's two-run blast put the Bulldogs up 2-0 after first baseman Manny Garcia singled through the left side with one out in the frame.
Designated hitter Steele Netterville then crushed a blistering line drive over the left-field wall in the third for a three-run home run, stretching the home team's lead to 5-0. Netterville moved up in tonight's lineup to the cleanup spot for the first time since a game against UAB on April 3 and didn't disappoint, posting a 2-for-5 night at the plate with a home run, double, four RBI and two runs scored.
A line-drive single from left fielder Cole McConnell in the bottom of the fifth made it 6-0 Bulldogs. McConnell along with the other six batters in the top seven of LA Tech's batting order each tallied mutli-hit performances in the 17-hit performance for the Bulldogs.
"It's been about two weeks that we haven't been locked in offensively like we're capable of being, like we were earlier in the year," head coach Lane Burroughs said. "We moved some guys around tonight, and I thought they responded.
"More than hitting tonight, I want us to bring the vibe we had tonight into tomorrow and have fun."
On the mound, right-handed pitcher Jarret Whorff cruised through the first six innings, posting six straight zeroes on the scoreboard to open the game while limiting the Hilltoppers to just three base hits. Whorff struck out three batters and allowed just one walk to move to 9-2 on the season. The Bulldogs are 12-2 with the right-hander on the mound this season.
WKU (27-29) finally chased Whorff in the seventh inning after bringing in two runs behind a fielding error and an RBI single from pinch hitter Richard Constantine to trim LA Tech's lead to 6-2. Right-hander Kyle Crigger then entered the ballgame with two runners on and just one out, limiting the damage to just one more Hilltopper run to escape the frame with a 6-3 advantage.
Back-to-back two-out RBI doubles from Garcia and catcher Jorge Corona stretched the Bulldog lead back out to 8-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
After WKU tallied a run in the top of the eighth to make it 8-4, the Bulldogs pushed across six runs in the bottom half to end the ballgame in eight innings. A record-breaking triple off the bat of two-hole batter Hunter Wells made it 10-4 Bulldogs with nobody out. Wells' three-bagger was the 10th of his career, marking a new career best in LA Tech Baseball history.
An RBI single from Parker Bates made it 11-4 Bulldogs and continued the scoring barrage with nobody out in the eighth. Netterville's fourth RBI of the night, this time from a double to right center, made it 12-4. With two outs in the inning, Corona then sent the fans home an inning early with a two-run blast to left center.
The Bulldogs blasted three homers on Friday night, moving them to 15-3 this season when they tally two home runs or more in a game. LA Tech had gone four games since its most recent round-tripper.
LA Tech has tallied 10 or more hits 28 times this season, more than 50% of its contests in 2021.