HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Comeback complete. Series victory secured.
Louisiana Tech's baseball team battled back for the second time this weekend, erasing an early 4-0 deficit to knock off Southern Miss 8-7 in Sunday's series finale at Pete Taylor Park. LA Tech's comeback victory moved the No. 21 Bulldogs (17-6) to a perfect 6-0 on "championship" Sundays in 2021. The road win also notched LA Tech's second straight series victory at Southern Miss, moving the Diamond Dogs to 5-2 in their past seven games in Hattiesburg.
Preseason Conference USA Player of the Year Parker Bates shined in clutch situations throughout Sunday's game, delivering the go-ahead hit in the eighth to put the Bulldogs ahead for good. After Southern Miss (14-9) scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 7-7, the Bulldogs put two runners on with nobody out in the top of the eighth.
Shortstop Alex Ray reached first with his second HBP of the weekend to lead off the inning. Leadoff batter Taylor Young then laced a single to left field to move Ray up to second. Southern Miss left-hander Ryan Och recorded a strikeout to record the first out of the eighth, bringing up Bates with runners at first and second with one away.
Bates fell behind in the count 0-2, working the count back to 2-2 after taking two pitches and fouling off another one. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Bates roped a single through the right side, scoring Ray from second to give the 'Dogs an 8-7 advantage. It was Bates' third hit of the afternoon as the centerfielder finished 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored.
"That's what good hitters do," head coach Lane Burroughs said. "He found a way to get the barrel on the ball and get it through the right side.
"That's why he's an All-American. He's going to go down as one of the best players to ever play here, and anytime he's up at the plate he's got the ability to change the game with one swing of the bat."
Left-hander Kyle Griffen earned his second pitching victory of the season after getting out of a bases-loaded situation in the seventh, allowing just one run after getting USM's Charlie Fischer to ground into a fielder's choice. Griffen recorded the first two outs of the eighth before turning it over to senior Tyler Follis for the final four outs. Follis, who nailed down his first save of 2021 at Tulane this past Sunday, recorded his second save with a pair of flyouts and strikeouts. Follis recorded the final out of the series by getting Southern Miss leadoff hitter Gabe Montenegro to strike out looking on a 3-2 pitch.
Southern Miss scored the first four runs in Sunday's game with a pair of two spots in the first two frames. LA Tech trimmed the Golden Eagles' lead to 4-1 in the third when Bates registered a two-out single to right field, driving in catcher Kyle Hasler from third.
Bates' RBI single marked the first of seven straight runs for the Diamond Dogs. After the Golden Eagles and Bulldogs traded scorless frames in the fourth and fifth, LA Tech tied the game with a three-run sixth inning. Bates once again was the catalyst, beating the shift for a leadoff single through the left side. Netterville then reached on an error after his hard-hit ball hit off the glove of the Southern Miss third baseman to put runners at the corners.
Five-hole hitter Manny Garcia then singled to left field to make it 4-2. A RBI fielder's choice from pinch hitter Ben Brantley cut the lead to a single run before Hasler drove in the third run of the inning with a fielder's choice of his own, knotting the game at 4-4.
The Bulldogs followed up their three-run frame in the sixth with another three spot in the seventh, marking the 47th time in 2021 that Tech has scored multiple runs in a team at-bat. Young and Wells led off the inning with back-to-back singles before Netterville doubled off the wall in center field, bringing home Young for a 5-4 Bulldog lead. Garcia then drove a ball to right field, allowing Wells to tag up and score on the sacrifice fly. LA Tech added its third run of the inning on a passed ball from the catcher.
The Bulldogs scored the first two runs off Southern Miss closer Garrett Ramsey this season, handing the right-hander his first loss in a Golden Eagle uniform. The last time Southern Miss lost three games in a home conference series was all the way back on April 9-11, 2010, when UCF swept the Golden Eagles at Pete Taylor Park.
LA Tech finished the day with 13 hits. Five batters recorded multi-hit performances in Sunday's victory – Bates, Wells, Young, Garcia and Hasler. Netterville paced the Bulldogs with two runs scored.
The No. 21 Diamond Dogs will return to J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park for four games against UAB (9-13) beginning on Thursday evening. The four-game series will begin a day earlier than usual this upcoming week due to Easter Sunday.