MIAMI – In his final regular season start as a Bulldog, Louisiana Tech senior captain Matt Miller was nothing short of brilliant, shutting out FIU, 3-0, in a five-hit, 8.2 inning, pitching performance from FIU Baseball Stadium on Thursday evening.
The Bulldogs (33-21, 16-12 C-USA) received one of the best career starts from their senior right-hander, who at one point, retired 12 consecutive batters. Miller (6-1) struck out six and walked two, while Tech played solid defense behind him, turning a pair of crucial double plays on the evening.
“What can you say about Matt Miller? He was outstanding for us tonight,” head coach Lane Burroughs remarked. “He was spinning the baseball so well and kept it down in the zone all night. He was as good as I’ve seen him in a long time. Wish he could’ve gotten that last out, but we needed a punchout there late, and Braxton (Smith) got the job done. Their guy was going to get his strikeouts – we needed to grind out at-bats and get his pitch count up, and that’s exactly what we did. I’m extremely proud of our hitters for their approach tonight.”
The Auora, Illinois, native also set a new career high in innings pitched, never pitching past eight through his first two-plus seasons in the Red and Blue.
With his six punchouts, Miller now has 96 on the season – the most in a single season by a Bulldog pitcher since 2007 (Luke Burnett -115).
Miller ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the ninth, as FIU (22-31, 11-17 C-USA) brought the tying run to the plate in cleanup man Jose Garcia.
Tech made the call to the pen in senior closer Braxton Smith, who needed just three pitches to dispatch of Garcia via a swinging strikeout, while picking up his 10th save of the year.
Meanwhile, the Tech offense did just enough against the C-USA strikeout leader in Logan Allen. The southpaw racked up 10 punchouts, while walking just one, but some timely hits and solid base running allowed the Bulldogs to plate three earned runs off the 2018 Freshman All-American.
The Bulldogs struck for the first run of the game in the top of the third. Designated hitter Shelton Wallace picked up where he left off against Mississippi State on Tuesday, and led off the inning with a double to dead center. Wallace then moved to third on a flyout to right from Chris Clayton, and then scored on Taylor Young sacrifice fly to center.
Both starting pitchers worked through the fourth and fifth innings, relatively unscathed before Tech added to its lead in the sixth.
A leadoff walk from Clayton jumpstarted the inning, and with the Tech backstop at second after a Young sac bunt, Hunter Wells lashed an RBI single back up the middle, plating Clayton for the game’s second run.
Two batters later, now with two outs, cleanup man Tanner Huddleston lofted a shallow fly ball to right center. Wells, who was taking off with the pitch hustled and scored all the way from first on the bloop RBI single, giving Tech a 3-0 lead.
Allen picked up the loss, falling to 4-6 on the year after allowing three runs (all earned) on four hits, while striking out 10 and walking just one.
The Bulldogs will look to clinch their second consecutive league series tomorrow evening with first pitch set for 5 p.m. CT. Left-hander David Leal will make the start for Tech, coming off back-to-back complete games, while FIU will counter with right-hander Nick MacDonald.