No. 14 LA Tech split doubleheader at FIU behind Wells’ grand slam
MIAMI – A timely grand slam from Hunter Wells and a strong pitching performance out of the bullpen from right-hander Landon Tomkins helped Louisiana Tech earn a doubleheader split at FIU Baseball Stadium on Saturday.
The Sunday doubleheader at FIU has been officially canceled due to heavy rain impacting field conditions. The Bulldogs and Panthers will take a game apiece in the series played at FIU Baseball Stadium.
After dropping game one 10-5, LA Tech responded with a 12-7 comeback victory in game two to split the first two games of the series. With a one-run lead in the seventh inning, Wells turned on an 0-2 pitch with two outs to blast No. 14 LA Tech’s first grand slam of the season. Tomkins earned his fifth save of the season after allowing just one earned run over the final four frames of the game, allowing no hits in his relief appearance until the ninth inning.
FIU (18-28, 9-17 C-USA) won the first game behind a key five-run seventh inning. All five runs in the decisive bottom of the seventh came with two outs.
The Bulldogs (33-12, 17-9 C-USA) will send right-hander Jarret Whorff to the mound in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader. Both games will be seven-inning contests with the first pitch of the day scheduled for noon ET/11 a.m. CT.
The first game of Saturday’s doubleheader was a continuation of Friday’s suspended contest. Both games on Saturday were nine innings.
Game 2 Recap: No. 14 LA Tech 12, FIU 7
Game two of Saturday’s doubleheader entered the sixth inning deadlocked at 2-2 after the Bulldogs and Panthers traded two spots early in the contest. After scattering five hits across its first five team at-bats, the Bulldogs smacked four hits, two singles and a pair of doubles, in a four-run sixth inning to take their first lead of the ballgame.
Right fielder Philip Matulia opened the sixth with a leadoff walk, moving up to second base on Cole McConnell’s infield single. Catcher Jorge Corona then moved Tech’s corner outfielders up 90 feet apiece with a single of his own, loading the bases for shortstop Alex Ray. Despite facing a pitcher’s count at 1-2, Ray was able to smack a high chopper to shortstop, beating out a throw at first to avoid the double play and pick up the RBI on the fielder’s choice.
After taking their first lead of the game, the Diamond Dogs used a pair of doubles to plate three more runs in the frame. Leadoff batter Taylor Young crushed an RBI double to center field on a 2-1 pitch, bringing home McConnell from third base to make it 4-2 Bulldogs. Two batters later, centerfielder Parker Bates blasted a two-out, two-RBI double off the center-field wall to stretch Tech’s advantage to 6-2.
In the bottom of the sixth, FIU’s Humberto Torres blasted a three-run home run to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to one with nobody out in the frame. Right-hander Landon Tomkins then entered the game for the Bulldogs, dominating the rest of the way to earn his fifth save of the season.
Tomkins allowed no hits over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, giving up just two walks and striking out four Panthers over his first three frames. Tomkins’ scoreless sixth helped LA Tech maintain a one-run lead entering the top of the seventh, which is when the Bulldogs pulled away from FIU for good behind their first grand slam of the season.
A one-out single from McConnell, who went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI in game two, put the first runner on in the four-run Bulldog team at-bat. A single from Corona and then a two-out walk from Young loaded the bases for Hunter Wells with two down. After falling behind in the count, Wells jumped all over an 0-2 pitch to tally his eighth home run of the season. The third baseman’s grand slam was Tech’s first slam since Bates accomplished the feat at UL-Lafayette on Feb. 16, 2020.
McConnell and Ray tallied an RBI single apiece in the top of the eighth to extend the Bulldog lead to 12-5 midway through the eighth. The pair of RBI singles made it the third straight inning LA Tech had tallied multiple runs scored.
LA Tech clinched the doubleheader split in comeback fashion, erasing an early two-run deficit with a pair of runs in the third. Ray opened the top of the third with a double to left center, turning it over to the top of the order with a runner in scoring position. Young then watched ball four on a 3-2 pitch to put runners at first and second before Wells dropped in a single to load the bases.
The Bulldogs tallied both of their runs without a hit. Ray trotted on home from third for Tech’s first run of the game on a passed ball. Designated hitter Steele Netterville then lifted a sacrifice fly to centerfield, allowing Wells to tag up from third to tie the ballgame at 2-2.
Five Diamond Dogs tallied multi-hit performances in game two. Wells led the way with four RBI behind his grand slam in the seventh inning.
Game 1: FIU 10, No. 14 LA Tech 5
Game one was a tale of two days for the Diamond Dogs, holding a 4-1 lead over FIU before Friday night’s contest was suspended due to heavy rain. Once the series opener resumed on Saturday, the Panthers outscored the Bulldogs 9-1 over the final five frames to notch a 10-5 victory.
The time difference between the final pitch on Friday and the first pitch on Saturday spanned over 16 hours. FIU chipped away at LA Tech’s 4-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth and fifth, knotting the game at 4-4 entering the sixth.
A pair of scoreless team at-bats in the sixth sent the tied contest to the bottom of the seventh, which is when the Panthers pulled away from the Bulldogs for good. FIU scored all five of its runs with two outs in the frame, taking its first lead of the contest with a two-RBI single through the left side on a 2-2 pitch. Seven-hole hitter Steven Ondina then extended the lead to 8-4 with a two-RBI double to right field. A wild pitch helped the Panthers score their fifth and final run of the seventh inning.
Just four pitches into the eighth inning, designated hitter Steele Netterville launched his then team-high eighth home run of the season to trim LA Tech’s deficit to four runs in top half of the frame. Right fielder Philip Matulia then singled the next at-bat to put some pressure on the Panthers’ pitching staff, but the Bulldogs then made three straight outs to close the eighth inning.
An RBI single from FIU centerfielder Justin Farmer in the bottom half pushed the game to its final score.
Before the suspension of play, LA Tech quickly jumped ahead in game one of the series with a pair of two-out runs in the second inning. Matulia drew a two-out walk to extend the frame before left fielder Cole McConnell ripped an RBI double into the gap to give Tech a 1-0 lead. Catcher Jorge Corona, a Miami native and Miami Killian High School alumnus, registered his first of three hits of the contest with an RBI single to double the lead to 2-0.
After FIU tacked on a run in the bottom half, the Diamond Dogs posted a run on the scoreboard in the third and fourth to extend their lead to 4-1 before the stoppage of play. Manny Garcia drove in Tech’s third run of the game with a sacrifice fly in the third frame. A solo homer from Corona marked the Bulldogs’ fourth run of the ballgame in the fourth inning.
Corona posted a 3-for-4 day at the plate with a home run and two RBI in game one. McConnell also registered a multi-hit performance with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a run scored.
LA Tech will close out its road trip with a game at LSU on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.
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