LA Tech sweeps Saturday twinbill at WKU

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – In its first Conference USA road series of the season, Louisiana Tech swept a close-from-start-to-finish doubleheader against Western Kentucky, 5-3 and 3-2, Saturday afternoon and evening at windy Nick Denes Field.

The Bulldogs got two solid mound starts, first from Alec Sparks and then from senior Jonathan Fincher in the nightcap, and used timely hitting and good defense to snap a three-game losing streak, win the three-game series and move to 12-11 overall, 3-2 in C-USA.

“Amazing what can happen when you get a quality start on the mound,” said Tech coach Lane Burroughs, who’s watched his starters struggle lately. “Extremely proud of those two guys.”

WKU is 15-9 and 1-4. The two teams meet in the Game 3 finale Sunday at 1 p.m.

In the opener, the Bulldogs rode two homers, a pair of strong pitching performances and errorless ball to the 5-3 win.

Sparks (2-1) pitched six strong innings and Landon Tomkins got his first save of the year with three innings of scoreless relief.

The Hilltoppers took the early lead on a two-run homer by Lukas Farris in the second, but Tech answered in the top of the third on a three-run homer by Dalton Davis, hitting in the third spot, for a 3-2 lead.

“We’ve been needing our middle-of-the-order guys to get some big hits,” Burroughs said. “They did that today.”

WKU tied it in the sixth, 3-3, on a solo shot by Ty Batusich, but Tech again answered with a homer, this time an inside-the-parker by speedy Ethan Bates to make it 4-3. The Bulldogs added an insurance run in the eighth when Adarius Myers laced a double off the wall to score Jonathan Hogart.

The Tops got the leadoff runner aboard off Tomkins in each of the last three innings, but the righthander got out of each jam with the help of a double play and a couple of strikeouts.

In the nightcap, Tech grabbed the early 1-0 lead with three hits in the second, including a leadoff double by Jorge Corona, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Myers. Philip Matulia homered to lead off the sixth for a 2-0 Tech lead.

The Tops got one back in the seventh to make it 2-1. Fincher (4-2) left with a runner on first and one out.

In relief, Hector Rawley gave up a triple after Corona had thrown out the inherited baserunner, then hit a batter to put runners at the corners. Ryan Harland relieved and surrendered an RBI single before getting a strikeout to end it.

As they did all afternoon, the Dogs had an answer. Matulia walked to lead off the eighth and scored on a double by Davis, his fourth RBI of the afternoon, for a 3-1 lead.

The Tops got an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth off Bates, who pitched a scoreless ninth to get his fourth save in his first six-out appearance of the season.

“It was hard, tough sledding, to be able to so through the heart of their order,” Burroughs said of Bates’s two-inning effort. “He got it done.

“I could not be more proud of this team today,” he said. “I think the rainout actually played in our favor. We were on the bus 12 hours yesterday, practiced late Thursday night. We kind of needed a day of rest (Friday, when Game 1 had been scheduled). Win or lose, I love the way we played today. We needed it in the worst way.”

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