Courtesy of USM Athletics
Philip Matulia’s two-run single with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning propelled No. 2 seed Louisiana Tech to a dramatic 6-5 victory over No. 3 seed Southern Miss to send the Bulldogs to the championship game of the 2021 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Championship at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
Louisiana Tech (40-17) will face No. 4 seed Old Dominion (41-14) in Sunday’s championship game at 1 p.m. CT on CBS Sports Network.
Going into the ninth inning, LA Tech held a 2-1 lead after a solo homer to right field by Manny Garcia in the bottom of the eighth off Southern Miss reliever Blake Wehunt.
Southern Miss scored four runs in the top of the ninth. Reece Ewing singled to lead off the inning, and after one out, Will McGillis reached on a fielding error. Slade Wilks pinch hit for Blake Johnson, and Wilks hit a three-run homer to right-center off Louisiana Tech starter Greg Martinez for a 4-2 lead. Four batters later, Brady Faust lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Dustin Dickerson to extend the margin to 5-2.
In the bottom of the ninth for Louisiana Tech, Taylor Young led off with a single to right. Southern Miss moved Dickerson from shortstop to make his first career appearance on the mound. Hunter Wells struck out, and Parker Bates singled to right center to move Young to third. Steele Netterville’s sacrifice fly to center scored Young from third to make the score 5-3. Cole McConnell followed with a single to right that scored Bates all the way from first. Manny Garcia singled McConnell to second, and after a walk to Jorge Corona, Matulia hit a pitch into the gap in right that scored McConnell and Garcia with the tying and winning runs for the Bulldogs.
Garcia tied a Conference USA single-game tournament record with five hits as he had three singles, a double and a homer.
Casey Ouellette (1-0) was the winner in relief for LA Tech, working two-thirds of an inning. Martinez went 8.1 innings and scattered nine hits, walked two and struck out nine in a 119-pitch effort for the Bulldogs.
With two out in the second inning, Southern Miss opened the scoring as Danny Lynch hit a solo home run to right field off Martinez.
In the Louisiana Tech fourth, Bates doubled down the right field line to lead off the inning, and moved to third on a single by Garcia. Corona then drove Bates home with a single to left to tie the game at 1-1.
Southern Miss starter Ben Ethridge worked 6.1 innings, allowed nine hits and struck out six LA Tech batters.
The Golden Eagles will not make the league championship game for the first time since 2015.