No. 18 LA Tech claims C-USA Tournament opener – UTSA Athletics

RUSTON, La. — Down to its last out in the ninth, UTSA rallied to force extra innings but No. 18 Louisiana Tech got a walk-off homer from Hunter Wells in the 12th inning to post a 7-6 win over the Roadrunners in the first round of the double elimination Conference USA Championships, hosted by the Bulldogs on Wednesday night at J.C. Love Field. 
 
UTSA scored three unanswered runs – including two in the ninth inning – to tie the game in the opening round of the 2021 C-USA Championships against the host Bulldogs. After trading shutout frames with LA Tech in the 10th and 11th innings, Wells led off the bottom of the 12th inning with his second homer of the game and his 11th of the year, sent out to right-centerfield for the walk-off blast. 
 
It marked the longest game in C-USA Championship history, four hours and 57 minutes. The Roadrunners played their seventh extra-inning game of the year, its most since 2011. 
 
UTSA faced a ranked team for the ninth straight contest, the longest streak in program history. UTSA has played 36 percent of its schedule against a ranked foe in 2021, the toughest schedule in program history by that metric. 
 
The Roadrunners opened the scoring in the first behind a solo shot from first-team All-Conference USA catcher Nick Thornquist. The Bulldogs then scored the next five runs of the game to build an early advantage, with UTSA getting two runs back in the sixth only to have LA Tech answer with a single tally in the bottom of the frame to take a 6-3 lead. 
 
UTSA got a run back in the eighth after two-out hitting from Jonathan Tapia and Shea Gutierrez and rallied in the ninth with a pair of runs, including the game-tying double from Tapia, to force extras. 
 
UTSA, who ranks 11th in the NCAA in runs per game, was led at the dish by Thornquist, who cranked his 13th homer of the year. The Roadrunners had six runs on nine hits, drawing seven walks with four hit batters and a stolen base. 
 
Junior shortstop Joshua Lamb extended his hitting streak to 20 games, the fifth-longest streak in UTSA history. Tapia, Gutierrez, Leyton Barry and Chase Keng each added hits. 
 
UTSA (22-25) starter Pepper Jones worked 2.2 innings, allowing three hits and two runs – one earned – walking four and striking out two. Senior Hunter Mason worked the next two innings, allowing three runs – one earned – on three hits and two walks, striking out two. Lefty Grant Miller got a pair of outs, before giving way to John Chomko, who turned in a gem. 
 
The native of Tomball, Texas retired the first seven hitters he faced, striking out four, before allowing a hit batter and a walk with two outs in the eighth, finishing with 2.2 shutout frames. After UTSA rallied to force the bottom half with two runs in the ninth, senior Arturo Guajardo (3-3) opened the inning in relief of Chomko.  
 
Guajardo, native of Laredo, Texas, worked three innings, allowing a run on two walks. 
 
Louisiana Tech (37-16) starter Ryan Jennings worked five-plus innings, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks, striking out four. Kyle Crigger came on in a jam in the sixth inning and worked 2.2 innings, allowing a run on two hits and a walk, striking out three. Landon Tomkins came on with a pair on and two outs in the eighth, escaping the jam and getting the lead out in the ninth before issuing a pair of walks, who both scored. Greg Martinez faced a hitter, who reached on a fielder’s choice, before lefty Kyle Griffen entered in a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the ninth, getting a one-pitch sacrifice fly. Tyler Follis allowed the game-tying run to score on a two-out double and hit the leadoff man in the 10th inning before giving way to lefty Nick Ellis, who got three outs with a walk and strikeout. 
 
Cade Gibson (4-3) took over on the mound for the Bulldogs in the 11th – the eighth pitcher of the night for LA Tech. He worked two innings to earn the win, allowing a hit and walk, with a strikeout. 
 
UTSA will return to action in the elimination game of the bracket on Thursday at 4 p.m. on ESPN+, facing the loser of the Southern Miss-Western Kentucky game which immediately follows UTSA’s matchup with the Bulldogs, slated for a start time after midnight. 
 
Thornquist opened the scoring with a two-out, solo shot in the first inning, his 13th of the year, lined over the fence in rightfield. 
 
In the bottom of the second, LA Tech evened up the game, plating a run on a two-out infield single, which bounced off the glove of Jones on the mound, allowing Steele Netterville to score from third, after he reached scoring position on a fielding error on a potential double-play ball with one out. 
 
Wells gave LA Tech the lead in the bottom of the third inning, cranking his 10th homer of the year to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead. 
 
The lead grew to 4-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning as Cole McConnell dropped a two-run, two-out single into shallow left-centerfield, scoring Manny Garcia and Wells, who both reached on walks. 
 
In the bottom of the fifth, the Bulldogs added on for a four-run lead, getting a two-out RBI single from Taylor Young, scoring Alex Ray, who singled and took second on a wild pitch. 
 
The Roadrunners rallied in the top of the sixth inning, getting singles from Barry, Lamb and Keng to load the bases to open the frame. After a pitching change, Tapia forced home a run and pushed up a pair of runners into scoring position with an RBI groundout. Gutierrez then forced home Lamb with an RBI groundout to the right side, cutting the lead to 5-3. 
 
A sacrifice fly from Netterville stretched the lead to 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, plating Parker Bates, who was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning. 
 
In the top of the eighth inning, UTSA got a two-out double over the head of the centerfielder from Tapia. Gutierrez then singled home Tapia with a knock up the middle, cutting the lead to 6-4. 
 
In the ninth inning, Thornquist and Barry each drew walks with one out and Lamb loaded the bases after reaching on a fielder’s choice following missed defensive coverage on a force out up the middle. Keng scored Thornquist with a sac fly to cut the lead to one. Tapia then smashed a game-tying double into the gap with two outs to score Barry and even the game at 6-6. 
 
A jam ensued in the bottom of the ninth inning after a one-out single and hit by pitch put the winning run in scoring position in the form of Phillip Matulia. Guajardo induced an inning-inning double play to help UTSA escape the jam and force extra innings. 
 
Wells hit a 3-1 offering over the fence in right-centerfield to open the 12th inning, his second homer of the game and the 11th of the year. 
 
GAME NOTES: Junior RHP Pepper Jones made his sixth start in his seventh career appearance … Sophomore Senior RHP Hunter Mason pitched in his 21st game of the year and the 66th of his career … Junior LHP Grant Miller pitched in his 21stgame … Sophomore RHP John Chomko pitched in his 13th game of the year … Senior RHP Arturo Guajardo worked in his 15th game of the year … Senior C Nick Thornquist has reached base safely in 44 of 47 starts in 2021 … Thornquist has reached base safely in 87 of 101 career starts … Thornquist homered for the team-leading 20th time in his career and the 13th time in 2021 … Junior 2B Shea Gutierrez stole his third base of the year and the fourth of his career … Junior RF Dylan Rock has reached base safely in 42 of 46 starts in 2021 … Rock has reached base safely in 152 of 168 career starts … Rock was hit by his eighth pitch of the year and the 28th of his career … Junior SS Joshua Lamb has a 20-game hitting streak, the fifth-longest streak in UTSA history … Lamb has reached base safely in 44 of 47 starts in 2021 … Lamb has reached base safely in 100 of 121 career starts … Junior 3B Jonathan Tapia has reached base safely in 36 of 43 starts in 2021 … Tapia has made starts at second (18), third (21), shortstop (one), leftfield (two) and rightfield (one) in 2021 … Tapia has reached base safely in 99 of 121 career starts … Tapia was hit by his 13th pitch of the year and the 36th of his career … Tapia doubled for the seventh and eighth times in 2021 and the 17th time in his career … Tapia laid down his fourth sac bunt of 2021 and the 11th of his career … Sophomore CF Shane Sirdashney was hit by his fifth pitch of the year and the 10th of his career … Junior DH Chase Keng hung his fourth sac fly of the year and the fifth of his career … Senior RF Sean Arnold was hit by his first pitch of the year … Senior 1B Griffin Paxton has reached base safely in 42 of his 46 starts in 2021 … Paxton has reached base safely in 105 of 116 career starts … UTSA played its ninth straight game against a ranked foe – the toughest streak in program history – and its 17th game overall in 2021 … 36 percent of UTSA’s 2021 schedule will be played against a ranked foe, the most games against a ranked team in program history … UTSA has played 21 games against teams ranked in the top-30 in the NCAA RPI … UTSA played its seventh extra-inning game of the year, its most since playing eight in 2011 … LA Tech leads the all-time record in the series with UTSA, 15-14 and owns an 11-9 record in Ruston. 
 
– UTSA –