Manny Garcia got a mulligan.
Just a few hours earlier, the Louisiana Tech first baseman came to the plate with the winning runs on base in the Bulldogs final at bat and came up just a few feet short of a walk-off home run in a 12-11 loss.
But when Manny got his do-over with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and Tech trailing 6-5 in game two, he didn’t miss.
Garcia hit a tape-measure two-run bomb off the second floor of the student apartments beyond the left field wall, sending the 13th ranked Bulldogs to a 7-6 win and a split of the four-game series.
It was a series that will be talked about in Ruston – and Hattiesburg – for years to come.
“I thought we played well all weekend,” said LA Tech skipper Lane Burroughs. “We split the series against a great Southern Miss team. It could have easily been 4-0 either way. That’s what it is like with two great teams. This was like a Super Regional. Everything was under a microscope. Every pitch is important. It’s like a heavyweight fight. We had to find a way to win and we did.”
Southern Miss (23-12, 10-5 C-USA) won 4-3 in game one and 12-11 in game three. Tech (26-9, 12-4 C-USA) won 5-3 in game two and 7-6 in game four.
The two Conference USA heavyweights duked it out for 32 innings for the second time in a month with Burroughs’ Bunch having the inside track to the West Division midway through the league schedule.
“At the end of the day we played them eight times, and we won five of them,” Burroughs said. “But we still have a lot of baseball in front of us.”
Garcia’s bomb, off USM pitcher Aubrey Gillentine, completed a perfect 4-for-4 performance for the Tech first baseman and sent the crowd at JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park into a frenzy.
“Manny has done that a couple of times,” Burroughs said. “He has great power. When he gets into one of them, they don’t usually check up. He just missed it in game one. I think that one got in on his hands, but he didn’t miss this one. He is the man of the hour right now.”
Tech led 5-2 heading into the top of the sixth of the seven-inning affair but Southern Miss plated four runs on four hits to take a 6-5 lead. The Golden Eagles entered the bottom of the seventh just three outs away from avenging the earlier series loss in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but the Bulldogs had different plans.
“We had the top of the order coming up,” said Burroughs “Taylor (Young) was able to get on base, and when he does that to start an inning he usually finds a way to score. We had our best four hitters coming up. (Parker) Bates and (Hunter) Wells couldn’t get it done this time, but Manny did. That’s the great thing about our lineup.”
“We have the ability to drive the ball out of the yard or split a gap,” said Burroughs. “You have to have a little amnesia as a hitter. This is a game of failure. You can’t let it knock you to your knees. The great ones separate themselves by being able to deal with failure.”
Manny … the great … did just that and with one swing kept Louisiana Tech’s regional bid hosting hopes alive