Elimination Friday At C-USA TournamentAt The Ballpark
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. — It was elimination Friday at the Conference USA Tournament in Hattiesburg today as the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech and the Thundering Herd of Marshall both escaped a pair of white-knucklers to advance to the bracket finals on Saturday. Meanwhile, FAU was eliminated but is going to the NCAA tournament and FIU saw its promising seasons come to an end at an even 29-29
Before we move to Saturday, here’s what happened on Friday at Pete Taylor Park in beautiful hamlet of Hattiesburg.
Louisiana Tech 5 – FAU 4 (10 innings)
This is tournament baseball. Personified. One team’s elation is the other team’s deflation. That’s what we saw in the first game of today’s double-header.
It was a back and forth game that wasn’t all that squeaky clean either. The Bulldogs gave the Owls a lot of chances to jump back into the game, particularly in the eighth inning where three errors led to two runs by FAU, tying the game at 4-4.
“I was pretty mad because we kicked the ball around,” coach Greg Goff said. “If we would’ve handled the ball better I think we would’ve kept the game in hand.”
It looked a little Bad News Bears-like when two throws to get Owls runners out at the plate went awry on the same play. Esteban Puerta and Christian Dicks both came around to score on a single by Gunner Lambert. That knotted things up and set up the Earth-trembling finish for the Techsters.
The Owls brought in Colyn O’Connell, who in 20 appearances and 24.2 innings had given up just four earned runs all year. But with one out the strapping slinger set up Cody Daigle with a gopher ball across the top of the strike zone and Daigle swatted it fat, making it a no-doubter. As the ball sailed over the left field wall, his teammates stormed the field. Even coach Goff raced down from third base coaches box and joined in the welcoming fray at home plate.
“It was a 2-2 count,” coach said. I told Cody to get his barrel out and look for the pitch and he did. I’m just happy to see a kid persevere through some adversity and get the big hit tonight.”
I actually didn’t get the chance to ask coach Goff about running down the line and leading the celebration because I didn’t notice it until I looked at my pictures after the game. And there he is, even catching some air as he exalts the home run.
Then again, he could’ve also been making up for decades of LaTech frustration. The last time Tech was in the NCAA Tournament since 1987. They appear set to make amends for that now.
Cody Daigle provided the exclamation point.
Fla. Atl. – 010 100 020 0 – 4 10 3
LaTech – 200 100 100 1 – 5 8 5
WP: Adam Adkins, 6-0
LP: Colyn O’Connell, 2-1
– Tyler Frank, 3-for-4, RBI
– Esteban Puerta, 2-for-5
– Cody Daigle, 2-for-5, HR, 2B, 4RBI
– Raphael Gladu, 2-for-5
– Maiden Voyage for Tech
After being in Conference USA for three years, this is the first time that the Bulldogs have participated in the post-season tournament. They came into the tournament having won 19 of their previous 23 games and raised their RPI from near-triple digits to No. 38. They jumped up to 36 after the 13-3 rout of Charlotte on Thursday morning.
The last we heard from LaTech head coach Greg Goff, it was as the head coach of Campbell when they won the Big South Conference tournament championship and went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 24 years. His Camel clubs from 2012-13-14 all won over 40 games.
Some additional images from the first game.
Marshall 7 – FIU 6
For the first few innings it looked like the Herd was gonna run all over the Panthers as they put up a picket fence in the first three innings and then added two runs in the fourth. Tyler Ratliff hit another bomb over the centerfield wall and D.J. Gee scored twice after doubling and singling in his first two at bats as part of their 5-0 lead they jumped out to.
But the Golden Panthers didn’t go away, scoring two runs in the fourth and three in the sixth to pull within 6-5. The last three of those markers were provided by an Austin Rodriguez three-run dinger. An inning later FIU would tie the game on an Irving Lopez RBI single.
Yep, 6-6 through seven… we were looking at another extra inning game.
Ultimately, the game was decided on a pair of base running risks. In the top of the eighth inning, with Robert Fajardo on third, FIU reliever Robby Kalaf uncorked a wild pitch that Panthers catcher Zack Soria couldn’t handle and chased down. But Soria’s throw back to nab Fajardo scurrying down the line couldn’t be handled and the go-ahead run was in.
Then, in the bottom of the inning, Kolby Folis ran from second base on an infield single by Zach Files all the way toward home, but Herd first baseman Tommy Lane didn’t hesitate after receiving the throw, noticed Folis thing to score and whirled around to throw home. Folis was dead meat at the dish, caught by a stride and a half.
From there, Marshall leaned on the fireballing mullet of Burris Warner, who went the last 3.0 innings and was consistently hitting 92-93-94 on the gun too. A 3-6-1 double play in the bottom of the ninth helped seal the deal.
FIU’s season comes to an end, but can be congratulated for salvaging their season with a late 6-0 run in the final two weekends of CUSA play to earn a spot in the post-season tournament . Three of those wins came against Southern Miss, who was playing for a Regional hosting spot.
Marsh – 111 201 010 – 7 11 1
F.I.U. – 000 203 100 – 6 13 1
WP: Burris Warner, 3-1
LP: Robby Kalaf, 0-1
– Aaron Bossi, 3-for-5, 3RBI
– D.J. Gee, 2-for-4 two runs scored
– Austin Rodriguez, 2-for-4, 4RBI, HR
– Irving Lopez, 3-for-5, 2RBI