Steele Netterville returned to the lineup. Taylor Young did Taylor Young things. And the Bulldog bullpen came up big leading Louisiana Tech (32-11, 18-6 C-USA) to a four-game Conference USA baseball sweep over Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro.
Netterville hit a pair of home runs and was a presence throughout the four games in the middle of the Tech order, something Bulldog skipper Lane Burroughs was happy to see after playing almost a month without one of his top power hitters.
“I thought last weekend versus Marshall was really the first time you could tell we missed him with them having a lot of lefties,” Burroughs said. “Middle Tennessee is a lot like (Marshall) with all their lefties. Steele’s presence in our lineup definitely makes a difference.
“You saw that this weekend when he got into a couple of home runs. He hit a triple off the wall today. He is just so tough to pitch to. I am proud of how hard he worked all week to get back. I thought he had some great at bats for us. He provides more thunder. He is a guy who can change the course of the game in one swing. He did that a couple of times this weekend.”
Netterville wasn’t the only Bulldog with big home runs. After pounding out 16 hits in a 9-7 win over MT on Friday night in game one, hits were hard to come by in Saturday’s opening contest. But Phillip Matulia’s solo shot to right centerfield in the top of the third inning proved to be the difference in a 1-0 win behind Ryan Jennings complete-game gem.
In Saturday’s second game, Netterville hit a solo shot in the sixth inning to give Tech a 4-2 lead.
However, Middle Tennessee (21-21-1, 10-13-1) answered with a two-run single in the bottom of the inning to knot the game up … and set the stage for Taylor Young.
With two outs and no one on, Young drilled a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall against Middle Tennessee closer David Zoz to give Tech the 5-4 lead.
“We were trying to close things out and they get the two-out single that ties the game,” Burroughs said. “They bring in their ace closer who I think had only given up one home run all year. Taylor does what Taylor does. He runs to the moment and is such a clutch hitter. It was a great at bat. He fouled of some pitches and got enough of it to hit it out.”
Landon Thompkins recorded the final out with the tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh as Tech held on for the victory. Tech’s bullpen worked 10 innings in the four games, allowing just 11 hits and four runs. Thompkins picked up the win in game three while Kyle Crigger recorded his third and fourth saves of the season on the weekend.
“Those guys … they hear it,” said Burroughs. “You can’t keep anything from them. No one was more frustrated and disappointed last weekend then them. They were front and center and it was kind of a disaster. I give Coach (Mike) Silva and all of those guys credit for figuring it out. I thought every guy we brought out of the bullpen this weekend was very good. I thought they attacked the strike zone in key situations. They made big pitch after big pitch.”
Jarret Whorff improved to 8-1 with 6-1 victory, clinching the series sweep. Following a pair of 2-2 weekends, one with Southern Miss but the last one with lowly Marshall, the Bulldogs were hardly perfect, but were unbeaten, and won’t lose any ground in their Top 25 rankings as a result.