It’s a gut check weekend for Louisiana Tech.
Following its first subpar performance in Conference USA action after losing a pair of games to last place Marshall in Ruston, the Bulldogs (28-11, 14-6 C-USA) travel to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for a four-game series against Middle Tennessee (21-17-1, 10-9-1).
The schedule includes today’s 6 p.m. opener, Saturday’s 1 p.m. doubleheader and Sunday’s 2 p.m. finale at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
Tech skipper Lane Burroughs knows the road weekend series is vital and expects his veteran group to respond in a positive way.
“At the end of it all, we’re still first place in our division,” Burroughs said. “We’ve got to get our edge back and play looser. We have a good team. We’ve got an older team. You have these weekends, and it’s good to face some adversity and see how you respond.
“You don’t want to face adversity once you get to the postseason because there’s not time to respond. We’ve got time to respond, and our guys will be ready to go.”
Despite the two losses against the Thundering Herd, Tech is still ranked in the majority of Top 25 polls: D1Baseball (16), Baseball America (18), USA Today Sports Coaches Poll (18), NCBWA (18).
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series with Middle Tennessee, 14-11, dating back to April 20, 2001. The last time the Blue Raiders and LA Tech played was March 22-24, 2019, when Bulldogs took the series 2-1 in Murfreesboro and outscored the Blue Raiders 16-10 over three games.
This year’s Blue Raiders team is led by its pitching staff that boasts a 3.87 earned run average and has combined for 327 strikeouts and only 84 walks.
“Their pitching numbers are really good,” said Burroughs. “They don’t walk people. They throw strikes. One of their guys, Aaron Brown, is tied for fifth in the nation in strikeouts (with 87), so we’ve got to put this past weekend behind us.”
Brown (5-2, 4.28 ERA, 87 strikeouts, 11 walks) is just one of a number of solid arms, including David Zoz (6-0, 1.41 ERA, 5 saves), Zach Keenan (2-3, 2.85 ERA, 53 Ks, 11 strikeouts) and Peyton Wigginton (3-2, 2.90, 46 Ks).
The Bulldogs have shown this year the ability to hit top-notch pitching, winning five out of eight against Southern Miss and defeating the likes of Arkansas and Ole Miss. Tech is ranked in the top three of 10 different offensive statistical categories in Conference USA.
“We have an older club, and it’s baseball,” Burroughs said. “There are going to be peaks and valleys during a season, and this weekend was a valley. One way to look at it is to keep it in perspective. Number one, we didn’t lose the series. Number two, our program is at a point where we’re expecting to not only win these series, but to sweep them.”
Tech fans can hear all four games on the LA Tech Sports Network on 97.7 FM or watch them streamed on CUSA.tv.