Cardiac Dogs claim C-USA title in dramatic fashion

It’s something about Louisiana Tech and the flair for the dramatic in the Conference USA Championship.

These dogs love a good dog pile.

In 2021 in Ruston, the Diamond Dogs used a pair of come-from-behind, walk-off wins over Southern Miss to advance to the title game where they fell to Old Dominion 7-5 in extra inning at JC Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.

Tech fans will never forget that day.

Nor yesterday.

Steele Netterville’s two-out, RBI single up the first base line scored pinch runner Riggs Easterling and gave Louisiana Tech its first conference tournament title since 1987 at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg Sunday afternoon.

“I’m still in shock,” said Tech head coach Lane Burroughs postgame. “Things happen so fast the way we do it. It’s not like we get a big lead and are winning the game. It just happened so quick. It means everything.

“We have been sweating going to an (NCAA) regional for about a month and we were in it all along … we just had to win this tournament. I am more proud of that … that we are going to be playing next week. It means everything. It’s all about these guys right here.”

After a pair of impressive wins over Charlotte and Old Dominion moved Tech into the winner’s bracket on Saturday, Burroughs and Co. fell 9-6 in 13 innings against the same Monarch’s team during an early afternoon game – setting up a must win Saturday night.

Walker Burchfield provided the game-winning, walk-off 2-run single with one out in the bottom of the night to send Tech to an 8-7 win and a dog-pile of red jersey proportions and a spot in Sunday’s C-USA Championship game against UTSA.

And once again, Tech set the stage for more drama.

In a back-and-forth game between two high-quality team, the Bulldogs took a 7-6 lead into the top of the ninth inning. Only three outs away from the program’s first conference tournament title since 1987.

Too easy, right? Right.

Ryan Flores drove the first pitch of the top of the ninth inning against Tech reliever Kyle Crigger deep over the right field wall to tie the game at 7-7, setting up the bottom of the ninth.

Logan McLeod led off with an infield single and moved to second on a sac bunt by Wade Elliott. Taylor Young was intentionally walked and then pinch runner Riggs Easterling and Young moved up a base with a wild pitch.

With the game-winning run standing only 90 feet away with one out, UTSA pitcher Braylon Owens struck out Phil Matulia for the second out of the inning. Extra innings was just one out away.

Netterville, who doubled down the third base line to plate two runs and tie the game at 5-5 in the sixth, stepped to the plate. With a two-strike count, the fifth-year senior drove a fast ball on the outside of the plate down the first base line and into right field, sending Easterling home and the once again red-clad Bulldogs into a mass of humanity – this time in centerfield and this time as the Conference USA champions.

“We have to make it hard,” said Bulldog head coach Lane Burroughs in his postgame.

Tech (41-19) earned the automatic bid from Conference USA and will find out its seed and location today at 11 a.m. when the NCAA Selection Show unveils all 64 teams.

Bulldog fans are invited to attend the Selection Show Party in the Club Level of the Davison Athletics Complex. Doors open at 10:30 a.m.

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