Air Force eliminates LA Tech at Austin Regional, 9-7
AUSTIN, Texas — Louisiana Tech’s baseball season came to a sudden and somewhat startling end here in the Texas heat Sunday as Air Force scored seven runs over the final five innings to beat the Bulldogs, 9-7, and thump Tech out of 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.
The Falcons trailed 4-0 after two innings, thanks to an RBI double from Cole McConnell, 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.
Senior righthander Jarret Whorff, also playing in his final Tech game, left after five innings with a 4-3 lead. 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, Texas also got into Tech’s bullpen, which had been a beacon of stability all season; the Longhorns scored three in the seventh and one in the eighth in Tech’s 5-2 loss.
All-CUSA closer Kyle Crigger, 6-4, took the loss in both Regional games; the senior righty came into Austin with a staff-leading 35 appearances and a 1.79 ERA, fifth-best in the nation, in 65.1 innings.
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.
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.
Very little baseball was talked in the sincere and teary postgame press conference attended by Coach Lane Burroughs, Young, and Netterville. Burroughs congratulated the Falcons and “what they do for our country,” praised his friend and Falcons head coach ‘Kaz’ Kazlausky (Maj. Ret.), and wrapped up the game (“Not our day”) and season (“It just wasn’t meant to be”) before focusing on his senior shortstop and rightfielder.
“These are my boys,” he said, flanked by the roommates for the past four seasons, both who began playing regularly as freshmen, both who weathered the tornado that took their ballpark and the pandemic that shortened a season. “They’re champions, true Bulldog men. It’s gonna be tough not to put 8 (Young) and 30 (Netterville) in the lineup next year.
“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,” 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.”
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