No. 14 Louisiana Tech sweeps doubleheader from UTSA

Parker Bates slammed a walk-off, 3-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday to propel the 14th-ranked Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to a 10-7 victory and a doubleheader sweep over the UTSA Roadrunners.

In the Conference USA series being played at Ruston, La., Louisiana Tech leads two games to one going into the Sunday afternoon finale.

The Roadrunners took another successful swipe at one of the nation’s best teams Friday night when they downed the Bulldogs, 7-5. Arturo Guajardo got the last three outs with two runners on base for the save.

In the first game of Saturday’s twin-bill, Louisiana Tech bounced back behind pitcher Ryan Jennings, who hurled a complete-game, seven-inning three hitter in a 4-1 victory. Hunter Wells and Bates delivered run-scoring singles in a four-run fourth.

Jennings escaped a jam in the sixth when he allowed a two-out double to Dylan Rock and then struck out power-hitting Nick Thornquist to end the inning.

In the second game, the Roadrunners had their chances to split the doubleheader but couldn’t hold on to a pair of leads. They held a 3-0 edge in the second inning. They were up 4-2 in the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, the momentum swung in favor of the Bulldogs, who scored five runs. Not to be outdone, the Roadrunners added three in the top of the seventh to make it 7-7.

When the game went to extra innings, UTSA couldn’t score in its half of the eighth. From there, the Roadrunners handed the ball to Guajardo, who got into trouble immediately. He walked Taylor Young. Then Hunter Wells singled, putting runners at first and second and bringing up Bates.

Bates, a fifth-year senior from Tyler, pulled a ball over the right field wall to win it.

Louisiana Tech’s resilience spoiled what could have been a big day for the Roadrunners. Coming into Saturday, UTSA had won three of its last five — all against Top 25 competition. They had split four games against Old Dominion last weekend in San Antonio and then had won the opener against LA Tech, a team viewed as likely to play in the NCAA tournament.

Tech will host the C-USA tournament, scheduled for May 26-30. Tech also is under consideration to host an NCAA first-weekend regional the following weekend. UTSA, in turn, likely needs to win the C-USA tourney title to nail down its first NCAA berth since 2013.

Records

UTSA 22-23, 14-16
Louisiana Tech 35-14, 21-8

Elsewhere

No. 4 Tennessee rallied in the bottom of the ninth on a Max Ferguson 3-run homer to down top-ranked Arkansas, 8-7, at Knoxville. The win squares the three-game series between SEC heavyweights at 1-1.

No. 2 Vanderbilt, behind starting pitcher Jack Leiter, routed 18th-ranked Ole Miss, 13-2, in Oxford. SEC series is tied 1-1 going into Sunday’s finale.

Unranked Missouri notched a 16-8 road victory to win the SEC series 2-1 against No. 3 Mississippi State, in Starkville.

Cal Conley and Dru Baker hit grand slams as No. 7 Texas Tech won on the road in the Big 12 at unranked Oklahoma, 15-2. The series is tied 1-1 going into Sunday’s finale.

Drama kings: UTSA beats FIU, 5-4, in 10 innings

Relief ace Derek Craft struck out five in two and a third innings to earn the victory for the Roadrunners. (Photo by Jerry Briggs)

Just call them drama kings for a day.

Leading by three runs on Sunday afternoon, the UTSA Roadrunners allowed the FIU Golden Panthers to score once in the seventh and twice in the eighth to tie the score.

And then, just as it seemed that the Panthers might steal another Conference USA baseball victory in San Antonio, relief pitching ace Derek Craft put a stop it.

Craft struck out five in two-plus innings of scoreless relief, setting the stage for a two-out, 10th-inning rally and a 5-4 win for the Roadrunners.

After Dylan Rock’s single scored Ben Brookover from third, UTSA had emerged with two victories in the three-game series and renewed hope for a strong finish to the season.

UTSA players stormed the field after Rock’s RBI single to left, celebrating a win that boosted the Roadrunners (21-17 overall, 9-8 in conference) into fourth place in the C-USA standings.

“The later we get in the season, any victories are good victories, especially as you inch your way toward the conference tournament,” UTSA coach Jason Marshall said. “But the margins in our league are so slim. From top to bottom, pretty much anybody can beat anybody on a given day.

“Just proud of our resiliency to, one, give up the lead but, two, just hang tough and continue to get outs. Derek Craft just kind of hung in there, threw some zeroes up and gave us a chance to get to that moment.

“And then just proud of Dylan Rock, a freshman, for stepping in there and getting the big hit.”

UTSA’s Ben Brookover executes a head-first slide into third base with a second-inning triple. (Photo by Jerry Briggs)

With two out in the bottom of the 10th and nobody on, Brookover stepped to the plate for the Roadrunners.

Marshall, in the third-base coach’s box, shouted some encouragement at the senior from Reagan: “Get us a double, Ben.”

Brookover promptly obliged by powering a 2-1 fast ball from Tyler Myrick to the base of the fence in center field.

As he pulled into second standing up, UTSA was in business.

With the game on the line and Rock at the plate, a wild pitch from Myrick skipped to the back-stop, allowing Brookover to take third.

At that point, Rock slapped a 2-2 fastball into left field with some top-spin, bringing Brookover home for the winner.

“Coming into today, we knew it was kind of a must win,” said Brookover, who had two doubles and a triple. “We knew that if we won, we’d be in or around fourth place, and if we lost we’d be in (or) around eighth place, so a lot of guys had the mentality that this was a must win.

“It got a little sketchy at the end, but we definitely took care of business.”

FIU starter Nick MacDonald pitched well, striking out six in 5 and 1/3 innings. But he tired at the end, giving up three runs in the sixth and leaving the game with UTSA leading 4-1. (Photo by Jerry Briggs)

UTSA-FIU series at a glance

With a revised schedule, the Roadrunners and Panthers played two nine-inning games on Friday, with UTSA winning the opener 12-4 and then dropping the nightcap, 2-1.

Brookover homered in the first game and drove in four. For the series, he produced four hits, scored five runs and had five RBIs.

Craft, a pro prospect, pitched in all three games.

In Game 2, he took the loss after giving up a game-winning homer to Logan Allen in the eighth. But by Sunday, he earned redemption and a victory that improved his record to 3-3.

The 6-foot-8 right-hander, with a fastball clocked at 96 mph on the radar gun, worked a combined five innings in the three games and allowed one run on five hits. He struck out seven and walked two.

Records

UTSA 21-17, 9-8
FIU 18-21, 8-10

Coming up

UTSA hosts intra-city Division I foe Incarnate Word in a non-conference game on Tuesday night. The Roadrunners return to C-USA competition on Friday with the first of three games at Middle Tennessee.

UTSA’s Derek Craft fires a pitch in the eighth inning against the FIU Golden Panthers. (Photo by Jerry Briggs)