Follis dazzles as Tech shuts down ULM, 6-1

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RUSTON, La. – Louisiana Tech sophomore pitcher Tyler Follis pitched seven strong innings, striking out three and not allowing a single hit, in Tech’s 6-1 triumph over the ULM Warhawks on Wednesday evening in front of a crowd of 1,920 from J.C. Love Field.

The Tech (17-6, 3-0 C-USA) was in control throughout the evening, consistently staying ahead of the Warhawk (11-9, 2-1 Sun Belt) hitters and keeping them off balance. Had it not been for a combined 43 pitches in the first inning, the right-hander might’ve had the gas to close out the contest. From the second to the sixth inning, Follis became absolutely dominant, retiring 12 straight Warhawk hitters at one point.

“He (Follis) deserved the opportunity to go back out there in the eighth,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “He was tired, but he earned that right to go back out there. He’s got a long career ahead of him, so we want to take care of him as best we can, but wow, was he outstanding tonight.”

The midweek starter for the Bulldogs set new career-highs in innings pitched (7.0), batters faced (25) and pitches with 109. For the season, Follis lowered his ERA to a miniscule 0.77 mark, and has tossed 23.1 innings, while allowing just two earned runs, and striking out 21.

The Tech offense remained hot, striking for six runs on eight hits – its fifth-consecutive output of six or more runs.

Reigning Conference USA Hitter of the Week, Dalton Skelton increased his team-best hitting streak to 15 consecutive games, as the senior singled up the middle in the first, and belted a solo home run to right field in the seventh – his third home run of 2018.

“He’s seeing the ball really well,” noted Burroughs. “I’m proud of him and the work he’s putting in. He got his degree last quarter, and he’s just a fine young man. He represents Louisiana Tech baseball on and off the field about as well as he can.”

Both teams sat at a 0-0 stalemate through the first two innings, but Tech struck in a big way in the bottom of the third. Mason Robinson began the frame with a single into right field, and then moved to second after a four-pitch walk from Hunter Wells. This chased the ULM starter Cole Trichel (0-2) who made it through just 2.0 innings, while walking three and giving up two hits.

Kyle Backofen entered out of the Warhawk pen for Trichel, and allowed a sac fly from Parker Bates, that was deep enough into left field to score Robinson for the game’s first run. After a Tanner Huddleston single put a pair of runners on with two outs, Mason Mallard strolled to the plate and demolished a 1-0 fastball deep into left field, for his team-leading fourth home run of the season.

With a 4-0 lead, Follis continued his brilliance on the mound, getting a crucial shutdown fourth on just 14 pitches.

Tech would tack on another run in the bottom half, as Robinson caught the home-run fever and stroked a solo shot to the deepest part of the ballpark in centerfield, giving Tech a 5-0 lead.

Skelton would make it the second-consecutive night of six straight runs for the Bulldog offense, after his solo blast curled around the foul pole in right in the bottom of the seventh.

Senior reliever Graham Ahlrich entered in relief of Follis in the eighth and gave up a pair of hits, but limited the Warhawks to just one unearned run, while striking out one in his first appearance since he began dealing with some shoulder soreness at the Frisco Classic at the beginning of March.

“It was good to see Graham back out there tonight,” Burroughs added. “He hadn’t pitched in a while, and I liked the way the ball was coming out of his hand.”

Fellow senior reliever Kent Hasler came on to pitch the ninth, and struck out one in a fairly painless inning of relief.

Tech has now won five in a row, and 12 of its 14 games played in the month of March. The squad improved to 11-2 at J.C. Love Field this season, and 17-6 overall.

The Bulldogs will head on the road this weekend for their first C-USA series away from home, facing the UAB Blazers (9-10, 1-2 C-USA) who are coming off a 6-4 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

All three games will be streamed live on CUSA.tv and can be heard on SportsTalk 97.7 with Dave Nitz on the call. Be sure to follow @LATechBSB on Twitter for all in-game updates and breaking news on the Bulldogs.

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