April 24, 2014
RUSTON, La. - With just about one month left to go in the 2014 season, Louisiana Tech will step out of Conference USA play briefly this weekend as the Bulldogs welcome Alabama A&M to Ruston for a three-game series beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
LA Tech (10-27, 4-17 C-USA) enters the weekend looking for its first series victory of the season when Alabama A&M travels to Ruston for a non-conference battle, while the Bulldogs are also eager to snap a four-game losing streak, which dates back to a 7-6 loss at UALR on April 15. Last weekend, Tech fell to Southern Miss in three games on the road.
Alabama A&M (17-25, 9-8 SWAC) travels to Ruston ranked second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference East standings. The Bulldogs from Normal, Ala., hold a 14-12 record at home, but Alabama A&M owns a disappointing 3-13 mark in road games heading into this weekend's series.
The series kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday with Saturday's contest set for a 3 p.m. first pitch. The weekend series versus the visiting Bulldogs concludes with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday in Ruston.
A LOOK AT THE (OTHER) BULLDOGS
Alabama A&M is currently on an eight-game road stretch, which will wrap up with this weekend's series against LA Tech. Most recently, the Bulldogs are coming off a midweek loss to North Alabama and a conference sweep at the hands of the No. 1 team in the SWAC East standings, Alabama State. The visiting Bulldogs have lost five straight contests dating back to a midweek defeat to Tennessee Tech on April 15.
For the fifth time this season, LA Tech will face off against an opponent for the first time in the history of the program. While the Bulldogs have never battled Alabama A&M on the diamond, Tech owns a sparkling record against Southwestern Athletic Conference teams with a 59-4 all-time record.
At the plate
Through 37 games, sophomore shortstop Taylor Love continues to lead the Bulldogs at the dish with a .316 batting average this season. Love leads the team in hits (43), doubles (9), runs (20) and on base percentage (.368). Tyler Ervine (.281 BA) leads the team with 19 RBI and home runs with four on the season. As a team, LA Tech is hitting .247 in 2014 with 45 doubles, one triple and 15 home runs.
Alabama A&M comes into the series with a .289 team batting average with 63 doubles, 11 triples and 23 home runs. The visiting Bulldogs are led by outfielder Andrew Utterback, who enters the series with a .393 average, nine doubles, five home runs and 33 runs batted in. USM's leading home run hitter is Julio Nunez with six home runs.
On the mound
LA Tech will stick with Austin Greer as the Friday night starter, while Braden Bristo will make his second appearance in the weekend rotation as the Saturday starter when the Bulldogs host Alabama A&M. Senior Richie Navari, who is coming off his third complete game of the season, will get the start in the series finale on Sunday. Greer (0-0, 2.29 ERA) was named the Friday starter two weeks ago against FIU, while Bristo (1-1, 3.74 ERA) will receive his third start of the season on Saturday. Although Navari received the loss last weekend against the Golden Eagles, the right-hander pitched a complete game, allowing just one run on five hits in a 1-0 loss.
Alabama A&M's pitching staff enters the series with a team earned run average of 6.71 in 42 games thus far. Junior right-hander Joshua Freeman leads the Bulldogs on the mound with a 1.93 ERA, while Utterback has a team-leading two saves for Alabama A&M in 2014.
Following this weekend's three-game home series against Alabama A&M, Louisiana Tech returns to the road for a four-game road stretch. The road trip begins with a 6:30 p.m. midweek contest versus Northwestern State on Tuesday, April 29 in Natchitoches. The Bulldogs will then hop on a plane and head to Charleston, W. Va., for a pivotal three-game Conference USA matchup with the Marshall Thundering Herd. That series is set to begin at 6 p.m. CT on Friday, May 2 at Appalachian Power Park.
All three games this weekend can be seen on LA Tech All-Access on LATechSports.com, but no audio will be provided for the home series. Live stats will also be available via GameTracker by accessing the link on the schedule page on LATechSports.com.
Friday's contest will mark the return of Free Hot Dog Friday at The Love Shack, while kids are invited to take the field with the team on Kids' Club Sunday in the series finale.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Baseball, please follow @LATechBSB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.