RUSTON – For the first time in more than a year, Louisiana Tech lost a Conference USA series as Middle Tennessee defeated the Lady Techsters 9-8 in extra innings in the third and final game of the weekend Sunday.
Tech (22-14, 6-3 C-USA) had won seven straight Conference USA series dating back to early last year, but the Blue Raiders (12-19, 3-9 C-USA) handed the Lady Techsters only their third and fourth losses at home this year.
The story of Sunday’s game was Tech’s inability to protect leads as Middle Tennessee rallied from four-, three- and one-run deficits throughout the course of the game. The Blue Raiders didn’t take their first lead of the game until the top of the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly to centerfield, plating the eventual game-winning run.
Tech scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning off MT starter Cori Jennings, who had shut the Lady Techsters down in a 3-1 Blue Raiders win on Saturday. However, Sunday Tech got to Jennings early and often.
The Lady Techsters loaded the bases as the first three batters reached before Taria Page drove home the first run with a sacrifice fly to deep right field. Tech then executed a double steal as Tori Charters scored the second run and Natalie Moran ended the scoring with a two-out, RBI single to right field.
Following a 34-minute lightning delay, Tech added onto its lead as Morgan Turkoly registered an RBI single to right field in the bottom of the second inning. Tech had a golden opportunity to blow the game open with the bases loaded and just one out, but Pauline Tufi hit a routine grounder to second base that pinch runner Kimmie Atienza ran into the tag and Tufi was thrown out for a double play ending the threat.
After cruising through the first two innings, Tech starter Bailey Allen failed to get out of the third inning. Staked to a 4-0 lead, Allen surrendered five hits in the top of the third inning as Middle Tennessee scored four runs to tie the game at 4-4.
Following the second weather delay of the game – this one lasting an hour and five minutes – Tech appeared poised to take control again. The Lady Techsters scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning on two-out run scoring hits from Ali Galaz, Jazlyn Crowder and Tori Charters. Tech led 7-4.
The lead was short-lived. MT responded in the top of the fourth inning tying the game on a solo home run by freshman Kaylyn Slatter and a two-run home run by Precious Birdsong, the first home runs of the season by both players. Both home runs came against Tech reliever Preslee Gallaway.
Tech loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth inning and a sacrifice fly by Katie Smith to the warning track in centerfield plated a run to give the Lady Techsters an 8-7 lead. With the bases loaded and just one out, MT turned to pitcher Gretchen Greer who promptly struck out Galaz and Crowder to end the threat.
Greer was the difference maker, pitching the final 4.2 innings while allowing only one hit and striking out nine batters.
MT tied the game in the top of the fifth inning, scoring a two-out unearned run to knot the game at 8-8.
MT plated the eventual game-winning run in the top of the eighth inning. With the based loaded and one out, Austin Whaley hit a deep fly ball to centerfield for a sacrifice fly, scoring the runner from third. Birdsong was called out on the play for leaving second base, but the run counted giving MT its first lead of the day.
Gallaway (10-9) took the loss, allowing five runs – four earned – on five hits and three walks while striking out four in 5.2 innings of action. Allen got the no decision, allowing four runs – three earned – on six hits in 2.1 innings of work.
Offensively, Tech was led by Crowder (2-5, 2 runs, RBI), Charters (2-5, run, RBI), Turkoly (1-5, run, RBI), Page (run, RBI), Tufi (1-5), Moran (1-2, RBI), Smith (1-3, run, RBI), Berkley Calapp (1-3), Karlee Jensen (1-1), and Galaz (2-3, 2 runs, RBI).