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Walk-off heroics

Garcia’s home run lifts Dogs over USM 7-6 in series finale
Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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Photo by Tom Morris

Louisiana Tech slugger Manny Garcia rounds the bases in jubilation Sunday afternoon after he connected for a walk-off, two-run home run to defeat Southern Mississippi 7-6 in the final game of a four-game series.

Louisiana Tech was on the verge of dropping a home series for the first time all season — that is, until Manny Garcia walked to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

He launched a two-run, walk-off home run that lifted the Bulldogs to a 7-6 win to split the four-game set with Southern Mississippi in Conference USA play.?On an 0-1 pitch, Garcia blasted the moon shot off the campus apartments beyond the left-field wall on Sunday afternoon at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.

Garcia trotted around the turf diamond at the Love Shack full of joy, discarding his batting helmet as he rounded third base before being mobbed by his Diamond Dog teammates at home plate.?The Caguas, Puerto Rico native completed an incredible 4-for-4 performance at the plate in game two with two home runs and four RBI.

The final swing of the entire weekend surpassed them all, helping the Bulldogs win 7-6 and move to 8-1 on “championship” Sundays in 2021.?Garcia just missed a walk-off blast in game one, flying out to the warning track in left field to end the first contest on Sunday.

Presented with another opportunity in game two, he didn’t miss.?

“I just want to say, first things first, I didn’t have a great game in the first game, but my teammates kept backing me up and kept giving me energy,” Garcia said.

“That last at-bat of the first game I thought I was close to getting one, and things happen.?It’s baseball. In the second game, my approach was feeling better. I was looking for a pitch to hammer, and I tried to do the most damage I could do to win the ballgame for us.”?

Tech’s 7-6 victory marks its third one-run victory over Southern Miss this season. Five of the eight regular-season matchups between the Bulldogs and Golden Eagles came down to a single run. Tech has won five of the eight games played against the West Division rivals.? Southern Miss (23- 12, 10-5 C-USA) secured a one-run victory of its own in game one, holding off a charging rally from the Diamond Dogs in the final frame to win 12-11.

The high-scoring affair featured six half-innings with three or more runs scored between the two offenses. An insurance run via a wild pitch in the top of the seventh proved to be the difference in game one.?“We played really well, and I didn’t have a whole lot to say after game one,” head coach Lane Burroughs said. “They’re a really good team, and I wasn’t disappointed. We never stopped fighting. In game two, Manny got it done. He just seems to keep getting big hit after big hit after big hit for us. He had a great sum mer, and he works hard. He never has a bad day. He loves playing this game.”

Tech (26-9, 12-4 C-USA) is now 3-2 in one-run games against the Golden Eagles in 2021. The Bulldogs will continue their stretch of 28 straight games against Conference USA opponents when they host Marshall for a four-game series at the Love Shack starting on Friday.

Friday’s game was rained out, which forced the two teams to play back-to-back doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday. They split each day. The Eagles won Saturday’s first game 4-3 while the Diamond Dogs rebounded 5-3 in the nightcap. Sunday’s first game was a shootout, with USM squeaking by 12-11.