After conjuring four dramatic walk-off wins, including two rabbit-out-the-hat victories in the semifinals, the magic ran out on Louisiana Tech as the home Bulldogs fell, 7-5, in extra innings to Old Dominion in the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Baseball Championship game.
The “Cardiac Dogs” appeared to be on their way to another thrilling ending.
Down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth, leadoff batter Parker Bates took a 2-1 pitch deep to right center to jolt more life into the LA Tech (40-18) squad by tying things up.
However, homerun-hitting Old Dominion (42-14) planted its third baseball over the wall in the 10th inning, this one a two-run bomb to right center with two outs by Kyle Battle.
The Bulldogs had one final chance in the bottom of the frame with a runner on first and the tying run at the plate, but Hunter Wells grounded out to shortstop to end an incredible tournament run by the host school.
Bates gave the ‘Dogs the first lead of the game in the bottom of the third with a two-run single through the right side. Both teams exchanged runs in the fifth, but the Monarchs took their first lead of the contest at 4-3 when Tommy Bell scorched a three-run homer.
The two exchanged runs again in the eighth before Bates’ bomb forced extra innings, the third such game of the tournament for the Bulldogs. The senior centerfielder notched a team-best three hits and three RBI along with one walk.
He was one of five Bulldogs, along with Manny Garcia, Hunter Wells, Steele Netterville and Greg Martinez, to earn All-Tournament honors.
ODU used nine pitchers with Aaron Holiday (4-1) getting the win by securing the last four outs. Jonathan Fincher (7-3), who came on in relief in the 10th, got the loss on the mound for LA Tech.
As dejected as LA Tech was coming in second, the team was reenergized with some news a couple hours later that J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park will be the home for more postseason baseball.
The NCAA announced that the newly-rebuilt Love Shack will be one of the 16 Regional hosts for the first time in in program history.
The Bulldogs will find out who their three opponents in the Ruston Regional will be during the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship Selection Show at 11 a.m. today. The selection show will be broadcasted live on ESPN2.