March 8, 2014
SAN ANTONIO - Louisiana Tech pitchers Bianca Duran and Pauline Tufi were both impressive in complete-game performances but the Lady Techsters were victimized by late inning errors, a lack of hitting and an obscure rule as they dropped a pair of 2-1 decision to UTSA Saturday.
UTSA 2, LA Tech 1 - 10 Innings (Game 1)
With two outs and the game on the line in the bottom of the 10th inning, an illegal pitch call ended the game.
After the Roadrunners tied the game up in the bottom half of the 10th as a walk, infield single and throwing error allowed an unearned run to score, Bianca Duran got some help from right fielder Janine Godwin.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the 1-1 game, UTSA's Siera Sproul hit a fly ball to Godwin for the first out of the frame. UTSA's Jade Smith attempted to score the game-winning run on the play as she tagged from third base but Godwin fired a strike to the plate for the second out of the inning.
With two outs and runners on second and third, head coach Mark Montgomery directed Duran to issue an intentional walk to Jori Fox to load the bases. However, on the second pitch of the intentional walk, Tech was called for an illegal pitch by the umpire crew as Godwin was standing in foul ground down the right field line.
The NCAA rule book states that every defensive player (minus the catcher) must be standing in fair territory when a pitch is delivered. The call allowed Courtney Buchman to walk home from third base with the game-ending run.
"Janine had a great game," said Tech head coach Mark Montgomery. "She was all over the place. She had a double. She had some great catches in the outfield, and she made two tremendous throws home to get runners trying to score.
It also spoiled what was a terrific effort by Duran in the circle. The junior threw the entire game, allowing just two unearned runs on five hits (four singles, one double) and three walks with four strikeouts in 9.2 innings of action.
"I told Bianca after the game was over that she pitched well enough for us to win," Montgomery said. "She really did. She made a few mistakes but she pitched well enough that we should have won. We simply didn't do a good job when we had chances to score."
Duran was matched pitch by pitch, inning by inning by UTSA pitcher Nichole Merrill, who allowed only one unearned run on three hits and eight walks with 10 strikeouts.
Tech had base runners in each of the first two innings but couldn't record a run-scoring hit against Merrill, something that would plague the Lady Techsters in both games of the doubleheader.
Neither team recorded a hit until UTSA finally singled off Duran in the bottom of the fourth inning. However, the Roadrunners couldn't score.
After a pair of rain delays - the first 19 minutes and the second 46 minutes - Tech finally had the first big opportunity of the day. In the top of the sixth inning, Merrill walked the bases loaded with two outs but then recorded one of her 10 strikeouts for the final out of the frame.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, UTSA recorded a pair of back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with only one out. However, pinch hitter Vivian Tijerina flew out to Godwin in right field who then threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate.
Neither team had many scoring opportunities in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. Tech did get a one-out double from Godwin in the top of the ninth inning but once again the Lady Techsters were unable to plate a run.
Tech finally took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 10th inning. Kristen Miles singled and Erin Kipp walked before Anna Cross advanced both runners with a successful sacrifice bunt. With runners on second and third and one out, Tech scored when UTSA catcher Tess Soefie made a throwing error trying to throw out Miles at third base after an unsuccessful squeeze bunt.
The Lady Techsters were unable to tact on a second run as Kipp was stranded on third base, something that ultimately proved costly.
Duran came out for the bottom of the 10th inning and walked the leadoff hitter. Jade Smith then recorded a bunt single to put runners on first and second with no outs. Courtney Buchman then laid down a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed by Kipp, allowing the tying run to score from second and putting runners on second and third with no outs.
Tech then intentionally walked Megan Low to load the bases and set up the controversial ending.
UTSA 2, LA Tech 1 (Game 2)
Despite the emotional loss in game one, Louisiana Tech came out 30 minutes later and played toe-to-toe with the Roadrunners before once again falling 2-1.
Freshman Pauline Tufi made only her second start of the season in the circle and responded with a terrific outing, allowing only two runs - one earned - on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts.
However, it was a late-inning error that once again cost the Lady Techsters.
"It is another case where we cost ourselves a chance to win a game," Montgomery said. "Today we pitched well enough in both games to win. However, we didn't make adjustments at the plate, and we made errors late in both games that came back to haunt us.
"We are going to continue to work hard. We are only two games into a 24-game conference schedule. We need to find a way to change our identity. I thought the kids competed and played hard today. That wasn't the issue in either game."
After surrendering a one-out solo home run to Tess Soefie in the bottom of the second inning, Tufi settled down allowing only two hits the rest of the way.
While struggling to find its offensive rhythm against UTSA starter Kacy Freeze, Tech finally got on the board in the top of the fifth inning. After Erin Kipp reached on a two-out fielding error by the UTSA infield, Anna Cross drove her home on a double to right centerfield, tying the game at 1-1.
Neither team was able to reach base in their next at bat as the Roadrunners came up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. Sproul led the inning off with a fly ball to left field that was misplayed by Miles, allowing the runner to reach second base. Fox then followed with an RBI single to left field, giving UTSA a 2-1 lead.
The two teams will complete the three-game series Sunday at noon.