RUSTON, La. (Feb. 28, 2017) - Just in case there was any college baseball fan left who was not sure these Bulldogs were for real, the Diamond Dogs went out on Tuesday night and made a statement with a 4-3 victory over No. 20 Arkansas at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
Make it 15 in a row at the Love Shack, as Louisiana Tech continues to hold the title of longest home winning streak in college baseball. At the same time, the Bulldogs are now one of just eight teams in college baseball who remain unbeaten.
“It is a big win for us,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “I am not going to downplay it. We want to be 1-0 tomorrow, but this was a huge win. We had a great crowd. I am proud of our fans for coming out on a school night. It is spring break so our students aren’t here. We still had the third largest crowd in school history. It was a regional type atmosphere. That is what we want our program to be.”
Austin Harrison made his first career start for the Bulldogs after Casey Sullivan was a late scratch due to back spasms. Harrison made the most of the opportunity, going 5.1 innings and giving up just one run in a no-decision.
“I am very proud of Austin Harrison,” Burroughs said. “He did not know he was starting until this morning. It was another quality start. He gave us five quality innings and I am very proud of him.”
Things started slow for the Bulldogs, who didn’t have their first hit of the ball game until the fourth inning, as Arkansas starter Josh Alberius was in a groove on the mound.
Arkansas struck first in the contest on a bloop double from Jaxon Williams down the right field line that landed in no-mans-land. After two innings, the Razorbacks held a 1-0 lead.
Graham Ahlrich came on in the top of the sixth tossed three scoreless innings and allowed just a single hit. In the top of the sixth inning, Ahlrich and Bulldog fans thought he had gotten the final strike on Chad Spanberger, but did not get the call. A livid Burroughs came barking out of the dugout with a roaring Louisiana Tech crowd behind him.
A pitch later, Ahlrich got Spanberger swinging and the momentum was clearly in favor of the Bulldogs with the sellout crowd back in it.
Alberius, who struck out seven in 5.1 innings pitched, did not run into trouble until the bottom of the sixth inning.
Raphael Gladu started things off with a laser off the top of the batters’ eye in centerfield for a one-out double. After Diaz reached on an error by Arkansas third baseman Carson Shaddy, Cody Daigle drew a walk to load the bases with just one out.
Arkansas turned to left-hander Weston Rogers for the lefty-on-lefty matchup with Chase Lunceford due up.
Lunceford didn’t blink, smashing the first of the at-bat down the right field line for a two-RBI double. The third base dugout erupted and Louisiana Tech had their first lead of the game at 2-1.
A batter later, Jonathan Washam found the gap in left center for a two-RBI double which extended the Bulldogs lead to 4-1.
“Our hitters and Coach Zulli work too hard to not be competitive,” Burroughs continued. “That was the frustrating thing, I did not think we were having competitive at-bats early. When we scored the four-spot, those were competitive at-bats. Whether you score or not, we had competitive at bats. We were drawing walks, hit by pitches and Chase Lunceford’s first pitch on left-on-left drives the baseball. That is a Chase Lunford swing and then we get another double by Jonathan Washam. Gladu got it started. He absolutely crushed that ball. The wind was blowing in and he almost left the yard.”
Nate Harris came on in the ninth and struck out the first Hog, but a wild pitch allowed him to advance to first safely. The next batter, Shaddy, homered to left field and cut the deficit to one. Harris would retire the next three Razorbacks to clinch the 4-3 victory.
“I thought Graham Ahlrich was lights-out,” Burroughs finished. “We actually talked about not pulling him from the game and letting him finish the ninth, but Nate Harris is our closer. Even though he gave up the home run, he’ll be back out there tomorrow if there is a save on the line.”
Louisiana Tech and Arkansas return to the diamond tomorrow afternoon for a 3 p.m. contest at the Love Shack. Tickets to that contest are nearly sold out as well. The game will be televised by Cox Sports and broadcast on ESPN 97.7 FM.
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