March 29, 2008
RUSTON, La. - With both teams nearing the point of absolute exhaustion, Louisiana Tech scored three runs in the bottom of the 14th inning to pull out a thrilling (if not excruciating) 12-11 victory in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader with San Jose State at J.C. Love Field. Tech also won the first game, 7-2.
Perhaps it was fitting that some Tech students were playing cricket on the rugby field across the street from the ballpark earlier in the day. Those matches can last up to five days.
It just seemed like the doubleheader lasted that long.
The day of baseball began shortly after 1 p.m. local time. The second game, which took over five hours to play, finished just a few minutes before 10 p.m. And it will be a short turnaround for both teams as they will play a single game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
"Our guys showed a lot of character by never giving up," Tech head coach Wade Simoneaux said. "We were down 7-2 in that game, we were down going to the 9th, we were down going to the bottom of the 14th. And we kept battling and never gave up."
It's been 22 years since a Bulldog baseball game lasted that long. It was the longest game for Louisiana Tech since a game with at Texas on Feb. 22, 1986, went 16 innings. The Bulldogs lost that contest to the Longhorns 2-1.
Jericho Jones, Tech's hero of the day, tied the game in the bottom of the 9th with a two-run homer off the right-field scoreboard to make the score 9-9. He was 5-for-5 at that point, finished 5-for-7 in the second game with a pair of home runs and three RBI, and also pitched 7.1 strong innings in the day's first game to get his fifth win of the season.
"Jericho had a great day," Simoneaux said. "He pitched 7 innings in the first game, then went out and played right field for 14 innings in the second game and had about 20 hits. I'm really proud of the way he competed today."
But Tech (15-11, 2-5 WAC) loaded the bases with no out in the bottom of the inning, bringing up sophomore outfielder Clint Stubbs, who had pinch-run for designated hitter Clay Alexander in the 9th. Stubbs hit a comebacker to the pitcher, who tried to throw home for the force. But Anthony Vega's throw was wide of the plate and rolled to the backstop, allowing Nick Grunenwald and Alex Richard scored to tie the game at 11 apiece.
Just two pitches later, Vega uncorked a wild pitch to score Adam Cobb from third and finally end the game with a 12-11 Bulldog victory.
Nick Grunenwald was 3-for-7 in the nightcap with an RBI and a run scored, and made numerous outstanding plays at shortstop to keep the Bulldogs in the game. Combined with his performance in the day's first game, the junior from Merrill, Wis., went 5-for-11 on the day with four RBI and two runs scored.A
lbie Goulder had two hits in the game with two RBI and two runs scored, including a home run in the second inning. Patrick Thomas also had a pair of hits, and Clay Alexander hit his first career home run in the fifth inning.
Aaron Lorio (4-2) got the last out in the 13th and pitched the whole 14th, and would have been the loser if not for the Bulldogs' rally in the bottom of the 14th. Jamey Bradshaw got the start and it was not his best day, giving up five runs on five hits while walking four. Alan Knotts fared little better in relief, giving up four earned runs on four hits while striking out four in 3.1 innings. John Anderson held things together for two innings despite walking four and giving up two hits, and Andrew Lassere was stellar over four innings of relief, allowing just one hit during the extra frames.
Tech took a 2-1 lead in the second inning on Goulder's two-run blast over the center field wall. But the Spartans would score six unanswered - three in the third and three more in the fourth - to take a 7-2 lead.
The Bulldogs would get three of those back in the fourth thanks to a 2-RBI single by Patrick Thomas to score Goulder and Jones to make it 7-4. Grunenwald would follow that with a single to bring in Chris Kersten, making it 7-5.
SJSU tacked on another in the fifth on a Alex Sofranac solo home run, pushing the advantage back to three runs at 8-5. But Tech would answer once again in the fifth with a pair of solo home runs from Alexander and Jones to get back within a run at 8-7.
A bases-loaded walk in the seventh would plate the Spartans' ninth run in the seventh inning, and things looked bleak for the Bulldogs headed to the ninth. But a throwing error by the Spartan third baseman got Clay Alexander to second, preceding Jones' game-tying blast.
In the day's first game, Tech got a stellar pitching performance from Jericho Jones and timely hitting in the first and sixth innings to pull out a 7-2 victory over San Jose State. Kersten hit his sixth home run of the season in the contest as part of a 2-for-4 effort.
The two teams - both certainly exhausted and short on pitching - will finish the four-game series on Sunday with a 1 p.m. single game. It's a "Cane's Challenge" game where a certain amount of Bulldog runs will guarantee free Raising Cane's chicken to all in attendance. Stadium gates open 90 minutes prior to first pitch, and fans can catch all the action on ESPN 97.7 FM or on the web at www.espn977.com.