April 10, 2014
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech is eager to snap a seven-game winless stretch this weekend at home as the FIU Panthers travel to Ruston to battle the Bulldogs in a three-game Conference USA series beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
LA Tech (9-21, 3-12 C-USA) has struggled this season with low-scoring games and that continued this past weekend, as two of the three losses suffered against UAB gave the Bulldogs 12 losses this season that have been decided by three runs or less.
"We know FIU can really pitch this year to go along with their hitting," head coach Wade Simoneaux said. "They are a solid ball club to be 24-9 and they are right in the middle of the pack in the conference standings. Everyone in Conference USA is a worthy opponent, but FIU is known especially for their ability to swing the bats. We will be ready for a battle this weekend, but we have to learn how to finish games."
FIU (24-9, 8-7 C-USA) enters the weekend with the top-ranked offense and pitching staff among 13 Conference USA teams, while the Panthers are tied for third with two other teams in the league standings with an 8-7 record in C-USA play.
The series begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, while Saturday's contest is set to start at 3 p.m. before the weekend wraps up at 11 a.m. on Sunday in Ruston.
Louisiana Tech is gearing up to take on former Sun Belt and current Conference USA foe FIU for just the 13th time in the history of both programs. The Panthers currently lead the all-time series, 9-3, over LA Tech, but the Bulldogs came out on top the last time these two teams met at the 2001 Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Lafayette. Louisiana Tech played FIU four times that season, winning 10-7 in the regular season and 5-3 in the tournament.
A LOOK AT THE PANTHERS
FIU rolls into Ruston this weekend to face the Bulldogs for the first time since 2001 in what will be the first time the two teams have met as Conference USA opponents, despite facing off as members of the Sun Belt from 1998 to 2001. The Panthers enter the weekend with a 24-9 overall record and an 8-7 mark in league play, which is tied for third in the C-USA standings. Most recently, FIU lost midweek to UL-Monroe by a score of 12-6, while the Panthers lost two of three from Old Dominion in Miami last weekend.
At the plate
Taylor Love continues to lead the Bulldogs offensively at the dish with a .345 batting average this season, which ranks fourth among all C-USA hitters. Love leads the team in hits (38), doubles (7), runs (19) and on base percentage (.390), and enters this weekend on a 28-game reached base streak, which dates back to Feb. 15 versus Southeastern. Tyler Ervine (.310 BA) leads the team with 16 RBI and is tied for the team lead with three home runs. As a team, LA Tech is hitting .254 this season with 36 doubles, a triple and 13 home runs.
FIU comes into the series with a league-leading .300 team batting average with 51 doubles, five triples and 14 home runs. The Panthers are led by Aramis Garcia, who enters the game with 10 doubles, five homers and 29 runs batted in on the season. Garcia leads all C-USA hitters with a .366 batting average.
On the mound
Junior right-hander Austin Greer (0-0, 2.35 ERA) will get his fifth start of the season as he will take the mound in the series opener Friday in his first appearance in Tech's weekend rotation. The Bulldogs will then send junior left-hander Jared Keating (0-2, 4.86 ERA) to the bump in what will be just his second start of the season, while senior Richie Navari (3-3, 2.03 ERA, 2 CG) is set to get the start in the series finale for the Bulldogs.
The Panthers come into the weekend as the top pitching staff in Conference USA with a 1.89 team ERA. Mike Franco (4-2, 1.05 ERA) will start things off Friday, while Cody Crouse (2-2, 1.73 ERA) and Chris Mourelle (6-0, 0.59 ERA) will go in Games 2 and 3 for FIU.
WITH THE CALL
Dave Nitz will call all the action from this weekend's three-game conference home series against FIU. All three games will be broadcast on KNBB 97.7 FM with a 15-minute pregame and postgame show featuring head coach Wade Simoneaux. Subscribers can also access both audio and video from each game on LA Tech All-Access on LATechSports.com.
The series is set to kick off at 6 p.m. Friday, as all fans are invited to The Love Shack for Free Hot Dog Friday. The first 100 fans in attendance will receive a free hot dog courtesy of Super 1 Foods. Saturday will be Faith & Family Day at the ball park, while kids will have the opportunity to get post-game autographs from the Bulldogs on Sunday.
Seeing as the Bulldogs will wrap up their seven-game home stand this weekend by hosting FIU in league play, LA Tech will pack its bags once again to make the bus trip to face UALR midweek at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 15. Tech will then travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., to take on Southern Miss for the first time as a Conference USA opponent. The three-game road series begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 18 at Pete Taylor Park.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Baseball, please follow @LATechBSB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.