Updated: Jun 3, 2022
The Conference USA baseball tournament is underway in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and multiple teams are here with not only the goal to increase their NCAA Tournament resumes, but simply extend their seasons. The best way to avoid sweating out Selection Monday is to win the conference tournament, which is precisely what a number of challengers are seeking to do on the home field of Southern Miss.
Championship Game: Louisiana Tech, 9, UTSA, 8
When the 2022 C-USA Tournament is looked back on, the shining storyline will be Louisiana Tech’s incredible walk-off wins. The Bulldogs fought off elimination on Saturday night in a 8-7 victory over Old Dominion to advance to Sunday’s championship game, and less than 24 hours later, won the C-USA title in the same dramatic fashion.
With two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth, Louisiana Tech’s Steele Netterville dug in, put in the position many only dream of, just needing a base hit to send his team to the NCAA Tournament. Entering the at-bat, the right fielder was hitting .316 with runners on base, and appeared calm as he stared into UTSA reliever Braylon Owens’ gaze. With a 2-2 count, the at-bat nearly ended when Owens stepped off the pitching rubber with the wrong foot, but the perceived balk was not called. As it turned out, it did not matter, as Netterville took the next pitch down the right field line, past the first base bag, scoring pinch runner Riggs Easterling easily from third. As soon as the ball traveled into the outfield, and Easterling crossed the plate, a sea of red jerseys sprinted from the dugout into center field, embracing their first C-USA Tournament title, and first conference championship since winning the Southland Conference in 1987.
It was an incredible turn of events that played in the favor of the Bulldogs, who entered the bottom of the sixth trailing 5-3. UTSA’s lead dissolved quickly, as Netterville’s first RBI double of the day, this one down the left field line, scored Taylor Young and Wade Elliott, tying the score. A sacrifice fly two batters later from Jorge Corona put Louisiana Tech in the lead, but the Roadrunners, one of the league’s best hitting teams, countered with a pair of their own in the seventh. By the time the Roadrunners stepped to the plate in the ninth, the margin was a single run, with Louisiana Tech up 8-7. But fifth-seeded UTSA did not shrink in the critical moment, as Ryan Flores swatted a home run on the first pitch of the inning, knotting the score at eight apiece.
As Louisiana Tech head coach Lane Burroughs said postgame of the home run, the home run just set up a life-lasting moment of fame for Netterville, a walk-on, who coincidentally drove in a fellow walk-on in Easterling.
“He’ll live with this forever,” Burroughs said on the postgame radio show. “It’s one of those things he’ll take with him until his last breath. I’m so proud of him.”
Prior to the contest, Burroughs said on SportsTalk977 that it would be “all hands on deck” when it came to the Bulldogs’ pitching. Jarret Whorff started the game, firing three innings, scattering three earned runs, before Cade Gibson, who started Thursday’s win over Old Dominion, came in for the next two frames. Beginning in the sixth, Landon Tomkins Tomkins, Ryan Harland, Ryan Jennings and Kyle Crigger each completed an inning, keeping Louisiana Tech in the fight. Crigger, who pitched in all five games, picked up his second straight win.
The Bulldogs, now guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament, will eagerly anticipate the news of where they will be sent for regional play. That announcement is set to come on Monday morning at 11 a.m. CT.
“I can’t wait to see where they’re sending us, that’s the fun part,” Burroughs said.
Young earned the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award, with a 9-for-18 stat line over the final four games, scoring four runs along with three RBIs.
UTSA is in position for an at-large bid, but the Roadrunners will not know their postseason fate for sure until Monday’s selection show.
Game 13: Louisiana Tech, 8, Old Dominion, 7
Updated Sunday May 29, 8:19 a.m. CT
Old Dominion held a one-run lead, but Louisiana Tech was very much in the driver’s seat, hitting with a bases-loaded, no outs situation. Pinch hitter Walker Burchfield stepped to the plate with one out, and swung at the first pitch he saw. He lifted the ball into shallow left field, but all three baserunners were moving as the ball traveled past the infield. Everything played out in the blink of an eye, as ODU left fielder Andy Garriola scooped up the ball and fired it home, hoping to prevent the walk-off run from crossing the plate. He nearly did too, but the throw was slightly off the mark and catcher Brock Gagliardi was unable to pull it in, as Louisiana Tech’s Cole McConnell slid across the plate with every Bulldog from the dugout sprinting onto the field in jubilation. The stark contrast of emotions was evident, as Louisiana Tech dogpiled near the first base bag, while Gagliardi dropped to his hands in disbelief, with his teammates exuding the same reaction.
Louisiana Tech may have dropped a 13-inning thriller early on Saturday, but underneath the lights of Pete Taylor Park hours later, the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the C-USA championship game in dramatic fashion, winning 8-7. They will play UTSA at 1 p.m.
Much like the morning’s duel between the opponents, it was a balanced contest that saw each side find success offensively, while a chess match of sorts ensued for the respective pitching coaches, who dealt with limited depth, but needed quality on the mound in this elimination situation.
Louisiana Tech took a 2-0 lead in the first, but ODU countered in a four-run fourth, taking its first lead of the game. A pair of runs in the bottom of the frame for the Bulldogs tied the score, with Adarius Myers’ sacrifice fly one inning later putting the lead back in the hands of Louisiana Tech. Entering the ninth, Louisiana Tech led 6-5, but Gagliardi swatted a two-run homer deep to right-center field, putting the pressure on Louisiana Tech, as ODU led 7-6.
Of course, that lead did not stand for long, as the Monarchs recorded just one out before the walk-off single gave Louisiana Tech the victory.
ODU went deep into the bullpen, using seven pitchers, while Louisiana Tech relied on the tireless arms of Jonathan Fincher and Kyle Crigger, who both pitched in the Bulldogs first game of the tournament, a 4-0 win over Charlotte.
Louisiana Tech was led offensively by the play of leadoff hitter Taylor Young, who went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs.
The “Diamond Dogs” ran the table last season and reached the C-USA title game before falling to ODU in extra innings. The matchup is no easier this time, but with a walk-off victory propelling Louisiana Tech into Sunday, it will be hard to stop this ballclub.
Game 12: UTSA, 11, Southern Miss, 2
Updated Saturday May 28, 8:19 p.m. CT
It was 4-0 in favor of UTSA. But the momentum appeared to be fast approaching in the direction of Southern Miss. The tournament’s No. 1 seed and host, the Golden Eagles were fighting elimination, playing in front of their home crowd, and after being shutout for six innings, had broken through with a pair of runs in the seventh.
A half inning later however, and the script read completely different. The Roadrunners of UTSA answered Southern Miss’ charge with an offensive onslaught, scoring six runs while the Golden Eagles struggled to tally even a single out. After Chase Keng flied out in the inning’s first at-bat, UTSA’s spark ignited on Garrett Poston’s base hit, which followed a walk to Ian Bailey. Matt King then singled to left field, driving in Bailey, and the scoring was on. Four straight hits followed, three of which brought runners across the plate, as Southern Miss made two pitching changes before the inning-ending lineout double play. A Jonathan Tapia RBI double highlighted the inning, with King and Poston both scoring. Poston came around easily from second on the hit down the left field line, and King sprinted with everything he had from first. He was nearly out too, if not for a headfirst slide that narrowly beat the throw and ensuing tag for a 7-2 lead.
The 11-2 victory for UTSA puts the Roadrunners, now 3-0 in tournament play, into the C-USA Championship game at 1 p.m. CT tomorrow. UTSA will face the winner of tonight’s meeting between Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech, playing in the title game for the first time since 2014.
The victory was as much a confidence-booster as a strategic win, with UTSA able to save pitching arms for Sunday’s C-USA Championship game, while Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech will be forced to use quality arms tonight in a must-win situation.
Hitting with strength and balance throughout the lineup, seven in the UTSA lineup hit above .300 in the contest, led by Poston, who was 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Shane Sirdashney drove in a team-high three runs in the contest, clearing the bases in a triple that capped the seventh-inning explosion.
Ryan Ward started the game for UTSA, but much like the Roadrunners’ victory over Florida Atlantic on Thursday morning, it was the reliever who gained more attention. Daniel Garza entered the game in the second and completed the next eight innings, striking out four with seven hits on three walks.
For Southern Miss, the loss is the second in two days to UTSA, as the Golden Eagles fell 7-6 on Friday morning. It also ends their C-USA Tournament run, though Southern Miss is a lock for an at-large bid. And UTSA for that matter, is almost certainly qualified for an at-large berth, depending on the result of Sunday’s championship duel.
The C-USA may be overlooked when stacked up against the SECs and Big 12s of the world, but this tournament has proven what makes postseason baseball in a conference with this amount of parity so exciting: anything can happen on any given day. UTSA is the fifth seed in Hattiesburg, but enters the championship game as the only team in the tournament without a loss.
Game 11: Old Dominion, 9, Louisiana Tech, 6 (13 innings)
Updated Saturday May 28, 4:19 p.m. CT
Fighting elimination, Old Dominion had one chance to keep its C-USA Tournament run alive. And the Monarchs fought with everything they had for that goal, battling Louisiana Tech for 13 innings before emerging with a 9-6 victory.
It forces a rematch between the two at 4 p.m. today, with a spot in the championship game on the line.
The contest began at 9 a.m., and spanned four hours and 41 minutes, with neither team giving in to the point of defeat. ODU opened the game with a two-run first, before Louisiana Tech cut into the advantage on Steele Netterville’s solo homer in the bottom of the inning. The Monarch lead was widened to as many as five runs by the third inning, a 6-1 advantage on Kenny Levari’s two-run home run over the center field wall.
But the Bulldogs had a power-hitting show of their own in the bottom of the frame, as Phillip Matulia’s two-run homer cut the ODU lead in half, before a fielder’s choice made it 6-4.
Louisiana Tech tied it at six when it opened the eighth with a homer from Taylor Young. Relief pitching took over from that point, with zeros put on the scoreboard for the next four innings, until the 13th, when ODU exploded in a three-run outburst. Three singles in the first four at-bats of the inning were a telling sign of what was to come, as Andy Garriola gave the Monarchs a 7-6 lead on his RBI base hit through the right side. With one out, Louisiana Tech opted for a strategic move, intentionally walking Brock Gagliardi to load the bases, hoping for a double play. But it did not help any, as Ryan Teschko brought two more runs home on yet another single.
Matulia singled in the bottom of the inning for Louisiana Tech, but it was the only offense the Bulldogs produced, as Jason Hartline tallied three quick outs for the extra-innings victory.
ODU used nine pitchers in the contest, keeping Louisiana Tech on its toes at the plate. Hartline picked up the win, throwing the most of any Monarch pitcher, with 3.2 innings of scoreless work and just two hits allowed.
Game 10: Southern Miss 5, Florida Atlantic 0
Updated Friday May 27, 11:19 p.m. CT
The lights flashed. A train whistle blew. And the crowd rose to its feet and cheered. Playing in front of its home fans, Southern Miss grabbed the lead and maintained it with an exceptional bullpen performance, keeping the Golden Eagles in the fight for the C-USA Tournament title with a 5-0 shutout of Florida Atlantic.
In a game-ending play, Southern Miss shortstop Dustin Dickerson cleanly fielded a bouncing ground ball behind the second base bag, flipping it underhand mid-stride to second baseman Will McGillis, who recorded the force out and punched the Golden Eagles’ ticket to a rematch with UTSA at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow. Southern Miss will need to defeat the Roadrunners twice on Saturday afternoon in order to reach the tournament’s championship game. FAU, meanwhile, is eliminated from the postseason.
For the first six innings, neither squad scored, as pitching took center stage. Hunter Riggins started for Southern Miss, and brought his best to the mound, striking out seven in 7.1 innings. He allowed five hits and three walks, but did not surrender a run as FAU was shutout for just the second time this season. For the Owls, Jacob Josey was equally strong for the first six innings, holding a powerful Southern Miss lineup to just three hits. But he ran into trouble in the seventh, beginning with Danny Lynch’s one-out double to left field. Rodrigo Montenegro’s base hit two batters later brought Lynch across the plate for the Golden Eagles’ first lead, and his older brother, Gabe Montenegro, drew a four-pitch walk in the next at-bat.
In a pivotal moment with the bases loaded, FAU’s Robert Wegielnik was called from the bullpen, needing only one out to end the inning. Instead, he fired three straight balls, walking Dickerson and bringing across Southern Miss’ second run. In the eighth, it was Lynch again with a double, this time driving in Christopher Sargent for a 3-0 lead. He, along with McGillis, came across the plate on Carson Paetow’s double to center field, widening the margin to five runs.
The lead was safe in the hands of reliever Dalton Rogers, who primarily used his mid-90s fastball and fanned three batters without allowing a hit in 2.1 innings of spectacular work. The save was his sixth of the year.
Game 9: Old Dominion 13, Charlotte 4
Updated Friday May 27, 7:59 p.m. CT
No. 3 seed Old Dominion buried itself in a 3-0 hole early, but the Monarchs fought back, recovering to down Charlotte in an elimination contest as the sun set on Friday afternoon. The 13-4 win was a step in the right direction for ODU, who struggled in a 7-2 loss at the hands of Louisiana Tech on Thursday evening. They earn a rematch with Louisiana Tech on Saturday at 10 a.m.
The Niners of Charlotte, the seventh seed, opened the game in this order: double, double, home run, as they gained a 3-0 lead before the first out was even recorded. The two-run homer from Jack Dragum was only the beginning of an exceptional 3-for-4 performance at the plate for the junior third baseman, who accounted for three of Charlotte’s four RBIs.
ODU also scored that first inning, when Brock Gagliardi took a two-out, 2-2 pitch up the middle, scoring Thomas Wheeler from second. Wheeler was hitless from the leadoff spot, but scored three runs.
A six-run fourth was the point at which the scales tipped in favor of ODU, as the Monarchs gained a 7-4 advantage. They recorded just three hits, but were assisted by three walks, all of which came on counts with fewer than two strikes. Incredibly, ODU went the entire inning with two outs, as Charlotte starter Hale Sims threw just six pitches while tallying the inning’s first two outs. But he soon ran into trouble, walking Chris Dengler on four straight pitches, before giving up a single and another walk. Reliever Tony Rossi did not fare much better, surrendering home runs to both Carter Trice and Andy Garriola, and was lifted before he could record a single out.
ODU held onto the victory from that point forward, using a combined seven innings of relief pitching from the trio of Jacob Gomez, Jason Hartline, and Noah Dean. Gomez picked up the win, his fifth of the year, striking out five over 4.0 innings.
Game 8: UTSA 7, Southern Miss 6
Updated Friday May 27, 5:29 p.m. CT
UTSA went to Hattiesburg as a major bubble team. But as the days have progressed, the Roadrunners are trending more and more in the direction of a lock. Because not even top-seeded Southern Miss, playing on its home turf, stopped UTSA on Friday morning, as the Roadrunners moved to a perfect 2-0 in the C-USA Tournament.
The 7-6 victory for the Roadrunners was a thriller, decided in the ninth inning on a go-ahead solo home run off the bat of Ryan Flores. Flores’ 12th homer of the year was the difference, breaking a 6-6 tie before Simon Miller worked his magic on the mound. He walked just one batter in the bottom of the final inning, inducing a groundout from Southern Miss power hitter Slade Wilks that ended the game.
The opponents traded runs in the early innings, each putting two on the board in the third. It seemed the Golden Eagles would pull away in the sixth, when they countered a single run from UTSA with three of their own in the bottom of the frame. The 5-3 lead was the largest of the day for either team , with Wilks driving in Christophe Sargent on a one-out single to left field. But UTSA added two just a half-inning later, knotting the score once again on Josh Killeen’s RBI single up the middle.
Killeen, along with Jonathan Tapia, Leyton Barry, Flores, and Matt King, had two hits on the day, as Southern Miss went through four pitchers, trying to find some consistency on the mound. Landon Harper, who was tagged with the loss, threw just one inning, recording a groundout to open the ninth, before giving up the decisive homer to Flores.
Southern Miss has a quick turnaround, fighting to stay alive another day in the tournament, in a 5 p.m. showdown against Florida Atlantic today. UTSA plays next on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against an opponent to be determined.
Game 7: Florida Atlantic 11, UAB 1
Updated Thursday May 26, 11:29 p.m. CT
Faced with the difficult prospect of playing twice in one day, Florida Atlantic embraced the situation. The Owls fought elimination in Thursday’s nightcap, and took down UAB by a score of 11-1, clinching their spot in Friday’s 5 p.m. contest against an opponent to be determined.
FAU dropped a two-run duel to fifth-seeded UTSA to open the day, but against the eighth-seeded Blazers, the Owls played as if their season depended on it…because it did. Despite being the tournament’s fourth-seed, FAU’s road to the NCAA Tournament lies in the automatic berth granted by winning the C-USA Tournament, not in an at-large bid.
The Owls opened the game with a three-run first inning, due to Mitchell Hartigan’s bases-clearing, two-out double. A pair of homers in the fourth inning from Gabriel Rincones Jr. and Nolan Schanuel widened the margin, as FAU pulled away, scoring four in the inning. The signs of FAU’s likelihood for victory became more noticeable as the game progressed. Things went the Owls’ way in a number of crucial moments, such as Schanuel’s bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 count with two outs in the fifth.
Tyler Burnham continued a stellar season for the Owls, moving to 7-1, in a solid start that spanned 6.0 innings. He gave up just one run, and struck out eight, before Sam Drumheller closed out the run-rule victory with a scoreless seventh.
With FAU’s run-rule win, three of the tournament’s first seven games have ended after seven innings. UAB closes its season with a 31-25 overall record, having scored its lone run in the fifth inning on John Marc Mullins’ sacrifice fly to center field.
Game Six: Louisiana Tech 7, Old Dominion 2
Updated Thursday May 26, 10:23 p.m. CT
Win No. 40 on the year for Louisiana Tech came in an extra-special way on Thursday afternoon. Fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs certainly aided their chances, following up Wednesday’s shutout win over Charlotte with a 7-2 victory against No. 3-seeded Old Dominion.
Once Ryan Jennings went to work, it seemed very little would stop him. The Louisiana Tech starter turned in a near-perfect showing on the mound, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and allowed just two hits and a pair of walks in 7.0 scoreless frames. He opened the contest with a strikeout, before walking the next batters. From that point on, he sat down eight consecutive ODU batters, while the Bulldog lineup assembled a lead.
Two hits, a walk, and two hit-by-pitches produced a three-run second inning for Louisiana Tech’s first lead of the game. They did not look back, adding an insurance run one inning later on Jorge Corona’s RBI ground-rule double. ODU finally pushed its first runs across in the ninth on Andy Garriola’s two-run homer, but by that point, it was too late.
Louisiana Tech’s Adarius Myers, after hitting two home runs in Wednesday’s win, swatted a pair of doubles in Thursday’s contest, one of just two players in the lineup with a multi-hit performance. Leadoff hitter Taylor Jones was the other, batting 3-for-5, as part of an 11-hit day for the Bulldogs.
Game Five: Charlotte 22, Middle Tennessee 0
In the first elimination game of the tournament, Charlotte left nothing to chance. Coming off a defeat at the hands of Louisiana Tech on Wednesday, the Niners were strong at the plate, drubbing Middle Tennessee 22-0.
It marked the largest margin of victory in C-USA tournament history, surpassing Rice’s 21-run win over Houston in the 2010 edition of the event.
With the win, Charlotte’s season remains alive, as the Niners will face Old Dominion on Friday at 1:30 p.m., while the Blue Raiders are sent home with a 29-25 record for the 2022 campaign.
Charlotte made its presence known early and often, pushing across eight in the first inning alone. Middle Tennessee starter Peyton Wigginton made it through just 0.2 of an inning before being pulled, having allowed seven runs on four hits. The Blue Raiders used five more pitchers in the contest, each looking for some sort of success against Charlotte’s powerful lineup. Just one, Jalen Wirtz, made it through more than two innings.
On the other hand, Charlotte’s pitching staff was exceptional in the shutout, paced by starter Collin Kramer, who allowed just four hits without a single walk through five innings on the mound. That was along with five strikeouts before Cameron Hansen and Paxton Thompson each fired a scoreless inning of relief to close the seven-inning game.
Charlotte swatted five home runs as a team, two of which came off the bat of Jack Dragum, who had five RBIs in a 3-for-5 performance. He, along with Cam Fisher, each scored four runs in the lopsided victory.
Game 4: UTSA 6, Florida Atlantic 4
Updated Thursday May 26, 1:23 p.m. CT
Luke Malone could not be stopped. Entering Thursday morning’s duel between Malone’s fourth-seeded UTSA Roadrunners and No. 5 seed Florida Atlantic, the longest outing of his season had been eight innings. He went a complete nine against FAU.
And it was in large part due to his performance on the mound that UTSA emerged with a 6-4 victory, earning a spot in Friday’s matchup against top-seeded Southern Miss. Malone had started 11 games for the Roadrunners this season, but on this particular morning was called out of the bullpen before the contest was even 10 minutes old. UTSA starter Braylon Owens walked the first two batters he faced, and was then lifted for Malone, who limited the damage and pulled UTSA out of the inning down just 2-0. Both runs were charged to Owens’ stat line, as Malone gave up just one hit. He went the distance, holding the Owl lineup at bay, scattering two runs across the next eight innings, including six hits and a single walk. The victory was Malone’s ninth of the year, which leads C-USA.
After FAU took its 2-0 lead in the first, UTSA countered with a run in both the second and fourth innings, the latter of which, a Chase Keng solo homer, tied the score. The Owls regained the lead in the top of the fifth, when Shane Magrann lifted a home run past the right-center field wall, but it did not last long. Back-to-back RBI singles from Ian Bailey and Garrett Poston gave UTSA a 4-3 advantage in the sixth. While FAU did tie it once more, a two-run eighth put the game into UTSA’s control. Malone protected the lead, striking out two of the final three batters he faced in a perfect ninth inning.
FAU faces UAB in an elimination game tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Southern Miss 4, UAB 3
Updated Thursday, May 26, 12:55 a.m. CT
Southern Miss has gotten used to playing late into the night for its first game of the C-USA Tournament. A year ago, the Golden Eagles’ opened the postseason at 12:15 a.m. On Wednesday night, it was not nearly as late, but due to threatening storms in the area, the contest did not begin until nearly five hours after the previously scheduled start time of 4 p.m. Southern Miss did not seem affected.
The Golden Eagles made history in fact, winning 4-3 in a competitive duel with eighth-seeded UAB. The league’s regular season champions, Southern Miss entered as the No. 1 seed, and is now the only team in C-USA history to play in every single conference tournament since its inception in 1996. And to add to that, the Golden Eagles have also notched a victory in each one of those 26 appearances.
Pete Taylor Park was abuzz with a large crowd despite the 9:19 p.m. first pitch, and it was treated to a thriller, with Southern Miss delivering the final blow in the form of Slade Wilks’ solo homer to right field in the fifth.
UAB struck first, pushing Caleb Floyd across the plate in the top of the second on a costly throwing error charged to Southern Miss third baseman Danny Lynch. But the Golden Eagles countered the Blazers’ early run that same inning, when Wilks hit a sharp single to shortstop. The throw to first base was off the mark, allowing Wilks to move to second, and more importantly, Christopher Sargent to score.
The Blazers regained the advantage as momentum swung like a pendulum late on this May evening, with Christian Hall sending a home run past the left field wall for a 2-1 lead in the fourth. True to form, Southern Miss issued a quick response, tying the score on a sacrifice fly before taking its first advantage on a balk that sent Carson Paetow easily across the plate.
UAB’s error in the second and the balk in the fourth were major difference-makers in a contest that was truly either team’s game until the final out, a swinging strikeout from Southern Miss reliever Landon Harper, was recorded. UAB tied it at three apiece in the fifth on a Josh Sears solo home run, but Wilks’ homer put the Golden Eagles in front for good.
Dalton Rogers and Harper combined for 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, not allowing a single hit, and striking out five. They were put in good position by starter Tanner Hall, who fanned 10 batters in 6.1 innings of work, with two earned runs on six hits.
Game 2: Louisiana Tech 4, Charlotte 0
Updated Wednesday, May 25, 10:19 p.m. CT
Rain delayed the tournament for the better part of the afternoon, but by 6:45 p.m., Louisiana Tech and Charlotte were able to take the field, contesting game two in another relatively one-sided affair.
The second-seeded Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech shutout No. 7 seed Charlotte, 4-0, picking up right where they had left off in a rematch of both teams’ final regular season series. Last weekend, the Bulldogs dropped the series opener, 11-3, but came back to take the next two, including a 14-5 run-rule victory in the series finale.
Louisiana Tech got going early, finding the same rhythm that they had just four days prior in Charlotte, North Carolina, scoring all four of its runs in the first inning. After Bulldog starter Cade Gibson struck out the final two Charlotte batters in the top of the frame, the bats went to work. Before the first out was recorded, Louisiana Tech led 2-0.
A fielding error allowed Taylor Young to reach first in Louisiana Tech’s first at-bat of the frame, and Philip Matulia promptly followed with a double into the left-center field gap, scoring Young for an early advantage. Another error put runners on the corners before Cole McConnell’s RBI groundout made it 2-0. Adarius Myers cleared the bases one batter later, with a two-run homer to left-center field for the 4-0 lead.
Gibson protected it through five innings, allowing just three hits without a single walk, while striking out seven. He picked up the win, his sixth of the year, while Jonathan Fincher and Kyle Crigger were exceptional in relief, with four additional scoreless innings, as just four Charlotte batters reached base.
Interestingly enough, both teams had six hits apiece in the contest. But it was Louisiana Tech who took advantage of its early opportunity. Myers finished with half of his team’s hit total, going 3-for-4.
Louisiana Tech faces Old Dominion at 4 p.m. tomorrow in a revised schedule, while Charlotte plays Middle Tennessee in an elimination game, now at 12:30 p.m.
Game 1: Old Dominion, 18, Middle Tennessee, 7
Updated Wednesday, May 25, 12:08 p.m. CT
Entering the C-USA Tournament on Wednesday morning, Old Dominion began a quest to defend its 2021 conference tournament title. Not even an early 9 a.m. start could stop the Monarchs from overmatching Middle Tennessee, as the bats caught fire and powered ODU to an 18-7 run-rule win that ended after seven innings.
It puts third-seeded ODU into a winner’s bracket game on Thursday at 12:30 PM against the winner of today’s meeting between No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech and No. 7 seed Charlotte. Middle Tennessee faces the loser of that contest in an elimination game Thursday at 9 AM.
A four-run first inning was the only lead ODU needed, as Middle Tennessee starter Trent Seibert picked up the loss for the second straight game. He made it just one inning in his final appearance of the regular season, allowing three earned runs against Southern Miss in a relief role. On Wednesday, ODU’s lineup recorded 10 runs, seven of which were earned, on eight hits and four walks over the 3.2 innings that Seibert was on the mound. Things did not get much better when Zach Keenan was brought in from the bullpen, as the Monarchs continued to roll, scoring eight runs off of him. But just four of those were earned, as three errors against Middle Tennessee kept ODU at the plate.
The sixth inning was one of two seven-run frames for the Monarchs. Matt Coutney took the first pitch of the inning past the left field wall for a homer. Middle Tennessee tallied a popout but then walked the following batter. The second out of the inning seemed sure to come when Kenny Levari, who also had a three-run homer, hit a ground ball to the right side that was easily fielded and thrown to second in an attempt to nab the leading runner, advancing from first. But the throw sailed high and into left field, allowing both runners to move into scoring position. Chris Dengler seized the opportunity, swatting a three-run home run deep to left field that broke the game wide open, 15-6. It was his second homer of the day.
Heavy rain began falling along with the wind already present in the area, and it only aided ODU’s sixth-inning outburst. The Monarchs batted around, with Coutney driving in the 18th run of the game on a single up the middle.