For the first two days of the 2016 Conference USA Baseball Championship, Louisiana Tech has swung a potent bat. Thursday morning, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs got a piece of pitching to match their performance at the plate.
With left fielder Raphael Gladu and third baseman Chase Lunceford supplying a potent one-two punch, Tech got a complete-game effort from right-hander Casey Sutton to knock out Charlotte, 13-3, in a 10-run-rule-shortened elimination game at Pete Taylor Park.
"Casey Sutton has been our guy," Tech coach Greg Goff said. "He was an all-conference selection, pitched to contact (Thursday) and got a lot of ground balls.
"He's the guy you want in there with our backs against the wall."
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Louisiana Tech will play FAU at 6:30 p.m. on Friday in Hattiesburg.
Sutton, who allowed three runs on nine hits over eight innings, shut out the eighth-ranked 49ers (23-32) through six innings. By that time, Tech (38-17) had Tech cranked out 11 of its 18 hits and taken a 9-0 lead.
Charlotte scored two runs in the seventh inning and another in the eighth, with two of the three runs coming on solo home runs by left fielder Zach Jarrett and second baseman Brett Netzer.
But the Bulldogs tacked on a run in the seventh and ended the 49ers' stay with one out in the eighth inning when Gladu's fifth hit of the game brought in Tech's third run of the inning.
"We were running up hill from the second inning on, basically," Charlotte coach Loren Hibbs said. "We made a lot of mistakes that we haven't made most of the season."
Florida International 3, Old Dominion 1: Extra innings have not been kind to Old Dominion the past few years when it comes to elimination baseball. Seventh-seeded FIU scored twice to break a tie in the top of the 11th inning and claim a 3-1 victory in an elimination bracket game Thursday afternoon at the 2016 Conference USA Baseball Championship at Pete Taylor Park.
Sixth-seeded ODU, which exited the 2015 baseball tournament with a 2-0 loss in 12 innings to Southern Miss, loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, but catcher Kyle Beam popped out to second base and designated hitter Will Morgan to not only end the game but the Monarchs' season.
"It got a little tight at the end, didn't it?" FIU coach Turtle Thomas asked.
It did, indeed, as FIU's Cody Crouse and ODU's Sam Sinnen hooked up in a good, old-fashioned pitching duel in a tournament more marked by hits and home runs.
Through the first five games, teams were combining for an average of nearly 23 hits and around three homers a game. Through the first five innings, ODU and FIU had combined for two hits, a 50-50 split of one apiece.
The difference: FIU's one hit was first baseman Zach Files' sixth home run of the season in the top of the second inning that gave the Panthers (29-28) a 1-0 that held up until the eighth inning.
Sinnen allowed one run on one hits through 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven while walking three.
"I thought Sam Sinnen pitched well for us, but we just couldn't get that big hit," ODU coach Chris Finwood said. "We didn't play (well) at all (Wednesday), especially on the mound. (Thursday), we pitched pretty good and had plenty of opportunities.
"We just couldn't get that big hit, and that's been our story all year."
Crouse pitched seven innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just two hits, while striking out four and walking two.
Rice 6, Florida Atlantic 4: Rice scored a pair of runs in the top of the 10th to stay undefeated in tournament play.
Rice (34-20) will get the day off on Friday and play the winner of Louisiana Tech-FAU at 4 p.m. on Saturday in a semifinal contest.
After loading the bases with none out in the top of the 10th, Rice scored on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Andrew Dunlap.
Ricardo Salinas (8-2) earned the win by throwing two scoreless innings in relief.
Cameron Ragsdale (0-1) took the loss for FAU (38-16) after giving up three runs on three hits in two innings out of the bullpen.
Catcher Dominic DiCaprio went 3-for-3 with one RBI to lead the Rice effort at the plate.
Note: For a recap of Southern Miss-Marshall, visit SunHerald.com.