Dogs Gone: Tech’s season ends in Austin

BULLDOG BROTHERS:  Seniors Taylor Young (8) and Steele Netterville celebrated a Netterville home run Sunday at the NCAA Austin Regional before a late loss to Air Force ended their college careers.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — Louisiana Tech had 13 hits, but few of them timely, and left an unlucky 13 runners on base in a 5-2 loss to Texas Saturday, then saw its bullpen collapse for the second game in a row in a 9-7 loss to Air Force Sunday and the Diamond Dogs were eliminated from the NCAA Austin Regional at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

It was the second NCAA Regional in two seasons for Tech, which hosted last year. Champions of the Conference USA Tournament, the Bulldogs finished 43-21.

“Once you get to the tournament, you’re in with 64 good teams,” Tech head coach Lane Burroughs said. “Air Force is one of them. We have a ton of respect for their program, for Coach (Mike) ‘Kaz’ (Kazlausky, Maj. Ret.) and what they do for our country. They scratched their starter, had to come back with another arm and still got it done. Tip of the hat to them.

“Great season for us; we never gave up,” he said. “Proud of how our guys fought; today, this weekend, it just wasn’t meant to be.”

The Bulldogs built a 4-0 lead on an RBI double from Cole McConnell in the first and, in the second, a sacrifice fly from Wade Elliott and a two-run homer from Taylor Young, who was 1-for-4 with a walk, a run scored, one putout and four assists in his final game as a Bulldog.

But Air Force scored two runs in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings and banged out 10 of its game-total 17 hits during that time off a trio of Bulldog relievers.

Saturday night, Texas broke away from a 1-1 tie in front of a stadium-record crowd (8,502) when the Longhorns scored three in the seventh and one in the eighth against a Tech bullpen that had been the model of consistency.

Sunday afternoon, after Air Force had taken a 7-5 lead in the top of the seventh, Tech tied things with a two-run homer by senior rightfielder Steele Netterville, his 15th homer of the season.

But Air Force answered with two in the top of the eighth, got out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the inning, and C.J. Dornak, the Falcons’ third pitcher of the day, retired the side in the ninth; McConnell singled with one out before a 6-4-3 double play ended it.

The postgame press conference from Burroughs, Young, and Netterville was little about baseball and mostly about relationships that grow through sports.

 “I can’t put into words what it means to me to put on this jersey,” said Young, who’s played more games, had more hits, and scored more runs than anyone in program history. “These last five years have been the best of my life.

“When we started, we were just scratching to get into the (league) tournament,” he said. “What’s taking place here now is just incredible.”

“He gave me an opportunity, and I’m forever grateful,” Shreveporter Netterville said of his coach. “I never expected to grow so close my coaches and my teammates.

“There’s no one better than Taylor Young in the history of this program, and that’s a fact. I love him like a brother, I’d do anything for him. I’d do anything for these two sitting right here.”

“We’ve got hardware in our building now because of what they’ve done, these two and our seniors,” Burroughs said. “We’re gonna keep going, keep building this thing. We’ll be back, I can assure you.”

Photo by TOM MORRIS, Louisiana Tech