Courtesy of LA Tech Athletic Communications
The wait was long. But it was worth it.
Louisiana Tech scored six times in the top of the 16th and beat Florida Atlantic, 12-6, in the longest game of the season Saturday afternoon (and evening) at FAU Stadium to retain a toe hold atop the crowded middle-of-the-pack in the Conference USA standings.
It took 4 hours 51 minutes to decide it, and the inning count was the longest for the Bulldogs since a 15-inning win over Rice in 2016.
“Seems like we just played three games,” said Tech coach Lane Burroughs, whose team fell 9-5 on Friday and 12-11 on Sunday to drop two out of three in the series.
Tech is 26-27 overall and 14-13 in CUSA; FAU is 30-22 and 14-13.
The game tied (appropriately) for the second longest in program history; the Bulldogs lost to Texas in 16 in 1986. The longest game in Tech baseball history is a 2-1 win over Southern Arkansas in 1985, a feat both Tech and FAU hope is not challenged Sunday.
Tied 6-6 after six innings on a warm South Florida Saturday, both teams fired blanks until Dalton Davis singled to lead off the 16th when a team that hadn’t scored in eight innings couldn’t stop.
“That was old-school Bulldog Baseball,” Burroughs said. “If you get in a grudge match with us, you’re gonna lose. Kept fighting. Kept competing. We were able to get it done.”
Against the Owls’ seventh pitcher of the night, loser Jacob Josey, Logan McLeod pushed Davis to second when he got hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and the 20th time this season. Brody Drost bunted to sacrifice but reached on an error and the bases were full for Jorge Corona, who walked to force in the go-ahead run.
7-6. At last.
Then Phil Matulia’s sacrifice fly scored McLeod.
8-6 and insurance.
Adarius Myers — he made a spectacular diving catch in left in the bottom of the 16th to pretty much douse any hope the Owls had — then singled in Drost.
9-6. Let freedom ring.
Then came the game’ wackiest play: Tech shortstop Will Safford hit a Little League homer by both doubling in Corona and scoring two more players — Myers and himself — on a bad throw from right field.
12-6. Tech’s dugout was breathing again.
Meanwhile, the final pitcher of the night for Tech, Reed Smith, had been quietly chunking shutout ball over the final four innings and in the 16th stranded two Owls — they left 23 on for the night, 16 in regulation — to pick up the win and even his record at 3-3.
“Reed,” Burroughs said, “was outstanding for us at the end.”
With the game in the balance, both coaches went all in by throwing their closers multiple innings. Robert Wegielnik, who came on to get the final two outs and earn his fifth save of the season Friday, entered in the seventh for the Owls for 5.2 innings and 90 pitches. Ethan Bates pitched innings 8-12 for the Dogs and threw 68.
The surprise for Tech and its bullpen, more or less tortured all season, was sophomore lefty Caden Copeland, who’d pitched just 13.2 innings this year in 11 appearances but ambled on in the hairy fifth in relief of starter Landon Tomkins, who’d just walked in a run with the bases loaded, no one out and Tech leading 6-2.
“He came in with a lot of stuff going on,” Burroughs said. “We were in a storm, and he calmed it.”
The Owls pushed across three more to make it 6-5 before Copeland got a strikeout and a double play. He gave up a homer that tied the game at 6-6 in the sixth but got a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the inning, and pulled off the same act in the seventh.
Then it was Bates, and then Smith, and finally the top of the 16th and all those runs.
Tech had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the third after Davis doubled and was knocked home by McLeod on a two-strike, two-out single. The Owls tied it in the bottom of the inning the same way, just backward — a hit, then a double.
Bates had a two-run homer in the fourth and Drost hit a three-run shot in the fifth as Tech built a 6-1 lead that the Owls erased by their half of the sixth before the teams locked in for 10 innings of no-run baseball — until the Owls blinked in the 16th.