As the clock was approaching midnight, Hunter Wells ruined Cinderella’s night.
Wells solo home run in the bottom of the 12th inning lifted the No. 2 seeded Bulldogs (37-16) to a 7-6 victory over the No. 9 seeded and upset-minded Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners (22-25) in the first day of the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Championships at JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
Not only did the blast over the right field wall – Wells second of the night and 11th of the season – end the Roadrunners upset bid, but it ended the longest game in the history of the Conference USA Tournament.
It took 4 hour and 59 minutes for the two teams to decide their fate as the game ended at 11:29 p.m.
“They threw me a 3-1 fastball earlier in the game (in the third inning) that I hit out,” said Wells. “I told myself if I saw a fastball I was going to take my cut. I got it and I got a pretty good piece of the ball.”
The home run sent the Bulldogs into today’s winners bracket against the winner of Southern Miss and WKU – a game that didn’t start until 12:15 a.m.
USM won that game 11-0.
Tech received a solid start in the circle from Ryan Jennings, who tossed 5.0 innings allowing three runs on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Jennings left the game in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded and no outs and a 5-1 advantage.
Kyle Crigger recorded three straight ground ball outs to second base as UTSA closed the gap to 5-3.
After Tech upped its advantage to 6-3 on a sacrifice fly to right field by Steele Netterville, the Bulldogs turned to their bullpen. UTSA scored a single run in the eighth and then mounted a rally in the ninth.
Trailing 6-4, the Roadrunners scored a run on a sacrifice fly. With two outs and the tying run on second, Tyler Follis surrendered a game-tying double sending the contest into extra innings.
Cade Gibson entered the game in the 11th inning, the eighth Tech pitcher of the night. With runners on second and third, Gibson induced a fly ball to left field. Cole McConnell recorded the catch and then fired a laser home to Jorge Corona who tagged the potential go-ahead run out.
“We made some great defensive plays in this game,” said Tech coach Lane Burroughs. “Some game-saving plays.”
Gibson picked up the win, allowing one hit and one walk through his 2.0 innings of action.
Wells was 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBI, including his 10th and 11th home runs of the season.
In other games from Day 1, No. 4 ODU defeated No. 5 Florida Atlantic 11-2. No. 8 Middle Tennessee upset No. 1 Charlotte 7-2.
Tech will now turn its focus toward USM, who the Bulldogs will face in a game set for a 7:30 p.m. start today at The Love Shack.