RUSTON, La. – The Louisiana Tech baseball team rallied back from a loss on Friday night, and stormed its way to a pair of Sunday victories (6-1 and 8-3), while clinching the weekend series over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Sunday afternoon from the Ruston High School Baseball Field in front of 1,315.
On its senior day, LA Tech (32-20, 15-12 C-USA) saw a pair of brilliant starts from two of its senior leaders in lefties David Leal and Logan Bailey, leading the Bulldogs to two seven-inning wins, while securing a spot in the Conference USA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
The Tech pitching was strong all weekend against the Hilltoppers, holding them to just two extra-base hits, and a .205 batting average, throughout the three game weekend set.
“We needed these wins in the worst way,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “We’re 3-1 in our last four and it feels good to get things rolling back out way again. I’m very proud of our guys for battling through a lot of emotions throughout this weekend. We didn’t walk anybody all day, after giving up 10 freebies on Friday night, and that was absolutely the difference. I’m very proud of all the guys that stepped on the bump for us today. I thought our hitters really battled and took good swings, and I was really proud of the approach we took at the plate up and down the lineup.”
Meanwhile, the Tech offense came to life, plating 14 runs in Sunday’s contests, propelled by the hot hitting of first baseman Mason Mallard. The Tech senior raised his season average up to .390 after a week that saw him hit .733 (11-for-15) with seven doubles, nine runs, five RBI, while slugging 1.200 in Tech’s 3-1 record over the week.
Game One Recap
In the first game of the Sunday twinbill, Tech starter David Leal was again the lead story for the second consecutive week. The left-hander dazzled once again in his second C-USA start of the season, tossing his second straight complete game.
Leal (3-1) stymied the WKU offense, holding them to just one run on three hits. The lone run came on a solo home run from the league’s leading hitter in Jake Sanford in the top of the fourth.
Outside of Sanford’s two knocks, Leal easily took care of the rest of the WKU order, as the other eight hitters combined to go 1-for-21 off the senior starter.
The left-hander went the distance (7.0 innings), while striking out eight and did not walk a batter.
In C-USA play, Leal continues to own one of the leagues’ top strikeout-to-walk ratios (33 K & 4 BB).
Meanwhile, the Tech offense did just enough against WKU starter Joe Filosa (1-1). The Bulldogs got to the right-hander early, plating single runs in both the first and second innings.
Tanner Huddleston began the scoring, as his RBI single to left, plated Mason Mallard, and then a sac fly from freshman designated hitter Philip Matulia in the second, scored Chris Clayton, giving Tech a 2-0 edge after two.
The Sanford shot drew the Hilltoppers to within one in the fourth, but the Tech offense snatched the two-run advantage back immediately, via an RBI single to center from Hunter Wells in the bottom of the fourth, extending the edge to 3-1.
The bats broke open the game in the sixth via RBI singles from Mallard and Parker Bates and an RBI double from Wells, as the Bulldogs plated three, giving Leal a five-run cushion heading into the final inning.
The heart of the Tech order paved the way as the Bulldogs evened up the weekend series, as Wells (2-for-4, 2 RBI), Mallard (3-for-3 2 R, 1 RBI), Huddleston (2-for-3, 1 RBI) and Bates (2-for-3, 1 RBI) all collected multi-knock games as the Bulldogs outhit the Hilltoppers, 12-3.
Game Two Recap
With the weekend set tied at a game apiece, Tech turned to another senior left-handed starter in Logan Bailey.
The 2018 First Team All-Conference selection delivered in one of his best starts of the year, holding WKU to just three runs across his 5.2 innings.
Bailey (6-5) was in control of the strike zone, scattering just three hits, while striking out six and did not walk a single batter.
WKU starter Colin Lollar (5-3) was not as fortunate, as the Tech bats got started early yet again, plating three in the bottom of the second.
Centerfielder Parker Bates began the scoring with a leadoff jolt well over the wall in right, and then after a pair of singles, Mason Robinson picked up a two-run double into the left-center gap, giving the Bulldogs an early three-run cushion.
Bailey ran into some traffic in the top of the third, as the Toppers scratched via an RBI groundout, however, the Tech offense came right back for their starter, and got the run right back in the bottom half, after four walks and a wild pitch issued by reliever Jacob Green, extended the Tech lead back out to three at 4-1 after three.
A solo home run drew the Hilltoppers back to within two, but Tech put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth as Manny Garcia and Philip Matulia both clubbed two-run home runs, pushing the Tech lead out to its largest of the weekend at 8-2.
Senior closer Braxton Smith tossed the final 1.1 innings for the Bulldogs, allowing just one hit and striking out one, preserving the Bulldog series triumph.
Tech will now turn its attention to its final midweek contest of the season, travelling to Starkville, Mississippi, for a Tuesday matchup vs. No. 5 Mississippi State. Admission will be free for the contest.
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