By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports
OXFORD, Miss. – Exactly zero part of it was easy, but Louisiana Tech ended a 17-inning scoreless streak that started Saturday with five runs in the fifth and added the winning run in the seventh for a comeback 6-5 victory over defending national champion and No. 4- ranked Ole Miss before 10,098 on a cool Tuesday evening at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.
Tech (5-3) turned its second double play of the game in the ninth and right-handed third baseman/reliever Ethan Bates got a check-swing strikeout of Peyton Chatagnier on a high slider to end it and earn the ‘Dogs both a win in their 2023 road opener and the program’s first road win over a Top 5 ranked opponent since 2004.
Game Two of the two-game series against Ole Miss (6-2) is scheduled to start at 3 today, one hour earlier than originally set in hopes of dodging rain that’s forecast.
Tech starter Greg Martinez and junior Isaac Crabb, a pair of right-handers, combined to pitch the first four innings as Ole Miss built a 4-0 lead with single runs each inning. Martinez gave up six hits in three innings, struck out seven, walked two and hit a batter. Crabb faced six batters, gave up three hits and made an error in his one inning of work. But … both kept the damage minimal and, most importantly, kept the Rebels, with 18 homers in their first seven games, in the park.
In all, five Tech pitchers stranded 13 Rebels.
Trailing 4-0, Tech opened the tell-tale fifth. Ole Miss starter J.T. Quinn retired the first 13 batters he’d faced before walking Jorge Corona and Adarius Myers with one out. Then designated hitter Jonathan Hogart had a grind-it-out, don’t-give-up at-bat that illustrated the game up until that point: the junior from Wabash Valley JC fouled off seven pitches before, on a full count, knocking a ground ball over the bag at second, good for an infield hit that loaded the bases.
Bulldogs were in business.
Then a couple of LSU transfers did work. Second baseman Will Safford doubled off the wall in right center for his first hit as a Bulldog to cut the lead in half and chase Quinn.
“That got us going, injected a little life into our ball club,” Tech coach Lane Burroughs said.
That was only the start. With two outs and two on, Brody Drost, the centerfielder from Lake Charles (and LSU), pulled a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence and Tech led, 5-4.
Just as big was the bottom of the inning: lefty Jonathan Fincher, the winner Friday night after giving up just one run in seven innings against Nicholls State, set the tone on the mound for the rest of the game with a shutdown fifth. The senior and captain gave up a two-out walk and single before striking out center fielder Ethan Groff on three pitches.
Ole Miss tied it at 5-5 in the sixth on a couple of walks and a base hit off Landon Tomkins, voted Reliever of the Year in the Pioneer League this summer. But Tech immediately answered. Logan McLeod singled, Drost walked, and with one out, Dalton Davis got the big hit to left-center to score McLeod for a 6-5 lead.
Tomkins pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth to pick up his second win of the season, and Bates got his second save with the dramatic ninth.
“What a team win,” Burroughs said, and went on to mention the big hits in the fifth and seventh, the shutdown bottom of the fifth, Tomkins and Bates on the mound late, Martinez and Crabb limiting the damage early.
“I’m proud of how they responded after not playing well at all Sunday (in a shutout loss to Nicholls),” he said. “Today was one of those team things. Once we kind of woke up, we showed if we play like that, we can play with anyone in the country.”
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