No. 20 ODU downs No. 14 LA Tech with late rally

Photo of Louisiana Tech’s Philip Matulia by DARRELL JAMES

LA Tech Athletics Communications

For the second straight night, No. 20 Old Dominion used a late offensive surge to knock off LA Tech 8-7 at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park on Friday evening.

In front of a crowd of 1,673 fans, Louisiana Tech (36-16) tallied four runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull ahead of the Monarchs 7-4. The Bulldogs faced a 4-3 deficit entering their team at-bat in the inning after a passed ball allowed catcher Brock Gagliardi to score from third in the top half, breaking a 3-3 tie.

Right-handed reliever Landon Tomkins entered Friday night’s ballgame in a tough position with a pair of Monarchs in scoring position and nobody out in the inning. Following the passed ball, Tomkins struck out three straight ODU batters to limit the Monarchs’ damage in the frame.

Tomkins’ surge out of the bullpen carried over into the bottom half as three straight Bulldogs reached base with one down in the inning, loading the bases for first baseman Manny Garcia. Garcia smacked a high chopper over the third baseman on the first pitch he saw to put the Bulldogs back in front at 5-4. Garcia’s two-RBI single marked RBIs No. 47 and 48 on the season for Tech’s first baseman.

Designated hitter Steele Netterville delivered a two-out RBI single up the middle to extend LA Tech’s lead to 7-4. A wild pitch from ODU reliever Brad Dobzanski then allowed Garcia to score from third to complete the Bulldog four-spot in the seventh.

Old Dominion (38-14) answered LA Tech’s scoring run with four runs of its own in the top of the eighth, plating its runs behind a a two-RBI double, RBI groundout and wild pitch. Reliever Trey Fisher recorded a hitless eighth before left-hander Jason Hartline nailed down his second save of the season in the bottom of the ninth.

The Bulldogs brought the winning run to the plate in the inning after centerfielder Parker Bates led off the frame with a single through the right side. Hartline, however, ended the ballgame just two batters later when he gloved a screaming line drive off the bat of Bulldog left fielder Cole McConnell before flipping over to first base to complete the game-ending double play.

After giving up a run in the first inning, LA Tech left-hander Cade Gibson dominated the Monarchs over the next five frames, facing the minimum over the next five innings. Gibson allowed just one hit, which was erased by a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth, during the lockdown string of innings. He also finished his final regular season start with a career-high seven strikeouts.

“He pitched really well, and we were going to let him roll tonight,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “I thought they weren’t taking very many good swings off of him, and his breaking ball was really good.

“He’s pitched well over his past two starts.”

Right fielder Philip Matulia got the Bulldogs on the board in the fifth with a two-out, two-run double into the gap in right center, giving LA Tech its first lead of the game at 2-1. Bates then extended the home team’s lead to 3-1 in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to right field, marking his 50th RBI of the 2021 season.

Third baseman Hunter Wells remained red hot at the plate, logging his fourth straight multi-hit game in Friday night’s defeat. Wells posted his second straight 3-for-5 performance, moving him just 10 hits shy of LA Tech’s all-time career hits record. The Katy, Texas native needs just 10 more base hits to reach 270, which would surpass current Bulldog record holder T.J. Soto at 269 career hits.

The Bulldogs will now set their sights on the Conference USA Tournament, which will be held at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park for the first time in program history. LA Tech, the No. 2 seed, will open the tournament at 4 p.m. Wednesday against No. 7 seed Texas-San Antonio.

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