by Malcolm Butler
Louisiana Tech and Dallas Baptist fans got to see a unicorn running around the bases Friday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field during the Bulldogs 12-5 win over the Patriots on the opening night of the Austin Regional.
Well, maybe not an actual unicorn, but a sight just as rare.
With the Bulldogs leading 7-4 and the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, said unicorn was seen galloping around the bases in the form of Tech catcher Jorge Corona.
Corona – who had already belted a two-run home run in the five-run fifth inning – made that blast look almost insignificant compared with what he accomplished in the sixth.
A second home run. Only this one was as rare as rare is in the game of baseball.
An inside the park home run. Rare enough for ya?
How about an inside the park grand slam? Even rarer!
How about an inside the park grand slam by a catcher. Okay, now we are just making stuff up. Right?
When was the last time anyone saw an inside the park grand slam it by a catcher?
Like I said … rare. Unicorn sighting, rare.
But it was the momentum-changing play that all but sealed the win by Tech, setting up a tonight/s showdown with host Texas. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
To be fair, Corona needed a little help from what Lane Burrough’s called a “blue bird sky” for his third grand slam of the year.
Dallas Baptist centerfielder Nathan Humphreys never saw the ball off the bat. Humphrey’s froze, staring up into the sky, arms out.
Meanwhile, Corona put it into the highest gear he has. And by the time Humphrey’s finally saw the ball, it was one-hopping up against the centerfield fence and Corona was well on his way to the rare feat.
“I feel bad for the centerfielder,” said Burroughs in the postgame press conference. “I have played outfield before. When it gets twilight like that … it was a high sky. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We call it a blue bird sky. It’s tough to see. I felt for him. I really did. Obviously, we wanted the runs, but I’ve been there. You just can’t see it.
“He threw his hands up immediately. Jorge, not a great runner. He’s a good runner, not a great runner. We needed those runs. It took him forever to get to the ball. We were going to send him. I didn’t think there was going to be a play. It’s Jorge’s third grand slam of the year; all of them have left the park but that one. That was huge to get those runs in. We needed them. A big at bat for him.”
Corona was 2-for-5 at the plate with a career-high six RBI in the win. He also threw out a Dallas Baptist base runner trying to steal third in the second inning. And later in the game, Corona took a foul ball off his chin, immediately going down at home plate.
After about a 5-minute delay and some quick medical treatment to stop the bleeding, he was back behind the plate. He was noticeably absent from the postgame press conference – receiving stitches to sew up the gash.
“What a warrior,” said Burroughs. “He should be sitting here with us right now. He took the ball off the chin. I can’t believe it didn’t knock him out. It was right on the chin. He is getting stitched up now. He bit his tongue. It was bleeding. So, he had all kinds of stuff going on.”
Jonathan Fincher got the start for Tech, picking up his eighth win of the year, tossing 5.0 innings while allowing just one run.
After Landon Tomkins surrendered a three-run home run in the top of the sixth to close the Tech lead to 7-4 , Greg Martinez came on and tossed the final 3.2 innings, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out five and picking up his first save of the season.
“Jorge and Greg work well together,” said Burroughs.
Dallas Baptist and Air Force — an 11-3 loser to Texas in the first game Friday — will face off in an elimination game today at noon.
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