By Teddy Allen
The many chances Louisiana Tech had to extend a trying 2023 season were left stranded here on the base baths of Reckling Park on a toasty Friday afternoon.
The Bulldogs just couldn’t buy a timely hit.
Tech left 12 runners on base — 10 in the first six innings — and lost to Charlotte, 4-1, in an elimination game on Day 3 of the 2023 Conference USA Tournament, hosted by Rice University.
The defending C-USA Tournament champs and preseason pick to win the league, No. 6-seed Tech finishes 28-31. No. 3-seed Charlotte, 31-26, plays Middle Tennessee Saturday as the tournament continues through Sunday’s championship.
The 49ers won three of five from the Bulldogs this season.
A few numbers from the ’23 finale will have a bitter “what-if” aftertaste.
First, the Bulldogs outhit the 49ers, 9-7. Coming into Friday’s game, Tech was 19-0 this season when not being outhit.
That record is now 19-1.
But where the season died was on the bases. The Bulldogs left two on in the first, loaded the bases in both the second and the sixth with one out, and the 49ers turned double plays in the fourth and fifth.
“We set some innings up and didn’t get it done,” Tech coach Lane Burroughs said. “We hit into a couple of double plays that … I thought those balls were scorched and unfortunately, they went into somebody’s glove.
“One thing about our players though: they never quit fighting,” he said. “Tough year, but they kept fighting all year long. Those are some life lessons we learned this year that these guys will carry throughout their lives. There are going to be days you don’t want to get up and fight — but you’ve got to.”
Charlotte built a 3-0 lead on just two hits — a solo homer in the first by Cam Fisher, his 28th, the program’s single-season record, and a two-run homer by Jack Cunningham after Fisher had walked to lead off the fourth.
Tech senior righty Landon Tomkins, 6-2, was the hard-luck loser. He pitched five innings (87 pitches) and gave way to Ethan Bates, the team’s ERA leader (3.02 with 10 saves), who gave up one run in the seventh on a two-out double and single, struck out five and didn’t walk anybody.
Tech broke through in the eighth. Leftfielder Adarius Myers, 7-for-13 with a home run for the tournament and 3-for-4 on the afternoon, opened the inning with a ground-rule double, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly from Kyle Hasler, catching in place of C-USA first-teamer Jorge Corona, who missed the tournament with an arm injury — until the final out of Friday’s game.
Corona’s at-bat came as a pinch hitter in the ninth. Dalton Davis, the Bulldogs’ hottest hitter down the stretch, led off the ninth with a standup double, his 18th hit in Tech’s final 10 games of the season. But after a strikeout and groundout, Corona was caught looking at a 2-2 strike to end the season.