Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Day of the walkoff

Louisiana Tech beats Southern Miss twice in final at-bat to advance to C-USA title game
Brian Trahan
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Article Image Alt Text

Photo by Tom Morris

Louisiana Tech players mob Steele Netterville after he his the game-winning double Saturday afternoon that lifted the Bulldogs to an 11-10 win over Southern Mississippi. The Dogs went on to win in another walkoff Saturday night against USM to advance to the C-USA championship game Sunday.

What could be better than to rally from 8-0 down and then win in an extra-inning walkoff?
Maybe winning a second game hours later, in another walkoff, to advance to the Conference USA championship game Sunday.
In a day that may go down in Louisiana Tech history as the greatest baseball played at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park, the No. 18 Diamond Dogs needed to beat rival Southern Miss twice to advance — they did that both times in their final at-bat.
In the nightcap, the hero was Philip Mutulia, who came up in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and two outs. On a full count, Matulia rifled a line drive to right-center off USM reliever Dustin Dickerson to plate Cole McConnell and Ardarius Myers with the tying and winning runs as the team, coaches, fans and stadium came unglued in celebration of the 6-5 victory.
“I don’t even know what just happened. It’s crazy,” Tech head coach Lane Burroughs said. “We feel like if we have an out to work with, we have a chance, especially with our lineup. I’ve never been more proud of a group of guys than I am of this team right now.”
“I knew he (Dickerson) was going to throw me a fastball and I knew it would be elevated so I tried to see the ball down. I fouled off a couple of pitches and I was right on them, and then I just got a hold of one,” Matulia said.
Earlier in the day, it was senior Steele Netterville’s turn to be the hero.
In almost the same location in right-center, Netterville laced a double in the bottom of the 10th that allowed Hunter Wells to score from first, just ahead of the tag to complete a miraculous comeback from eight runs down to win 11-10.
“I’ve felt pressure in the past and I’ve failed many times when I had a chance to win a game. I don’t know what it was about today but I felt really confident we were going to win this game. I actually told Bryce (Wallace) before the inning started I was going to win this game,” Netterville said.
Lost in the heroics at the plate in both games was the pitching performances from unlikely guys after the Dogs depleted the staff to get to elimination games on Saturday.
Cade Hodges entered the first game with Tech already trailing 8-0 in fourth inning. His four innings of strong relief allowed the Bulldogs to rally.
“We were about to get run-ruled. It was 8-0 and I think everyone was thinking the same thing,” Burroughs said. “Give Coach (Mitch) Gaspard some credit. He told the guys we may lose but we’re not getting run-ruled. That’s when Cade (Hodges) took over the game and he injected some energy and some life into our guys.”
In the second win, Burroughs had to turn to someone other than his four starting pitchers who have carried the team all season. In his first start of the year, Greg Martinez lasted 8 1/3 innings, gave up three earned runs and struck out nine. More importantly, he gave the team a chance to beat Southern Miss for the seventh time in an incredible 11 meetings this season.
The game wasn’t quite over when Martinez left the game, however. In fact, USM overcame a 2-1 Tech lead in the top of the ninth on a pinch-hit, three-run homer by Slade Wilks to set up the Dogs’ rally in the bottom half.
In the first game, the Bulldogs rallied for six runs in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 8-6 in what may have been the most important inning of the day after the 8-0 deficit. Tech actually led 10-9 heading into the top of the ninth, but the Eagles tied the game to send it to extra innings.
After the Golden Eagles beat Tech (40-17) 4-1 in a winner’s bracket game Thursday night, all they had to do was beat the Dogs once Saturday to advance to the championship and likely host an NCAA regional next week. USM, Tech and Charlotte were in the running to host regionals coming into the tournament. Charlotte went 0-2 in Ruston and now Tech owns the upper hand against USM. All that’s left is today’s matchup against Old Dominion at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
“We’re going to try to win this championship and hopefully we’ll be hosting a regional. We’ll see,” Burroughs said.