CHAMPS: ODU Takes Down LA Tech 7-5, Wins First Ever C-USA Title
RUSTON, La. – In the Conference USA title game, the No. 18 nationally ranked Old Dominion baseball team took down Louisiana Tech by a 7-5 score in 10 innings on Sunday afternoon at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park in Ruston, Louisiana. The Monarchs have now won five conference tournament titles in their history – one in the Sun Belt in 1985 and three-straight as members of the Colonial Athletic Association in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Today marked the program’s first ever crown in Conference USA.
Tommy Bell, the Russell D. Anderson Most Valuable Player of the tournament, gave ODU its first lead of the contest, 4-3, in the sixth inning after blasting a three-run homer to left field. Robbie Petracci made it a 5-3 game after a pinch-hit home run on a torn ACL in the eighth. LA Tech would score one run in the eighth, as well as the ninth to force extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Kyle Battle hammered a two-run homer to center to seal the deal for the Monarchs.
“What a game. Our kids are unbelievable, they really fight for each other,” said ODU head coach Chris Finwood. “I can’t imagine anyone could draw up a better conference championship than that one. It was a back-and-forth battle. Congratulations to LA Tech, they have a fantastic ballclub and ran a great tournament in a fantastic facility. The crowd was awesome today, by far the best environment we’ve played in this season, which should help us in the NCAA Tournament.”
No. 2 seeded Louisiana Tech (40-18) struck first in the bottom of the third, as a two-out single scored two Bulldogs to give LA Tech an early 2-0 advantage, which marked the largest deficit for the Monarchs all tournament.
Matt Coutney ripped a double to right to lead off the top of the fifth. Bell wore a curveball, before an errant pick-off attempt at second base advanced the runners. Thomas Wheeler then walked to load the bases. Battle followed by drawing a four-pitch walk, to bring in Coutney and cut ODU’s deficit to 2-1. LA Tech brought in Kyle Griffen to replace Ryan Jennings and Griffen would strike out to the next two batters to get out of the inning, leaving the bases loaded.
The Bulldogs again utilized a two-out rally, this time to extend their lead in the bottom of the fifth, as Louisiana Tech scored one run off one hit to claim a 3-1 advantage, while leaving two runners stranded.
No. 4 seeded Old Dominion (42-14) responded in the top of the sixth, as Andy Garriola got things going with a single up the middle. Coutney then walked, before Bell hammered a three-run home run over the left field wall, giving ODU a 4-3 lead. The homer was the eighth of the year for Bell.
Petracci came into pinch-hit in the top of the eighth inning and clobbered an 0-1 pitch over the right centerfield fence and onto the train tracks, extending the Monarchs lead to 5-3. The at-bat was the first for Petracci since April 30.
In the bottom of the eighth, a Taylor Young double down the left field line plated one Bulldog, making it a 5-4 game heading into the ninth.
Parker Bates tied the ballgame for LA Tech in the bottom of the ninth after homering to center field, forcing extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, Bell was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game, before Battle hit his league-leading 18th home run of the season to lift the Monarchs to their first ever C-USA title.
“We came into this game with a nothing to lose mindset,” explained Battle. “We just played loose and free, like we have all year and we were able to come out on top against a very good team. We set a goal of going to Omaha before the season started, but we are going to continue to take it one game at a time. I think this group has something in them.”
Old Dominion’s starting pitcher, Nick Pantos, went 4.2 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits. Aaron Holiday (4-1) was credited with the win after throwing 1.1 innings, allowing just one hit for no runs. In all, nine Monarchs pitched on Sunday.
Bell, the tournament MVP, went 8-for-13 (.615) with three home runs, while scoring seven runs and compiling eight RBI in four games.
“I have been here for four years and I have never been on a team like this. I love these guys,” said Bell. “This is a really special feeling. I’m at a loss for words right now, but we have more work to do, so that is the focus now.”
Brock Gagliardi led Old Dominion with three hits in five plate appearances on Sunday. Coutney and Thomas Wheeler followed with two hits each.
Gagliardi, Garriola and Hunter Gregory joined Bell on the Air Force Reserve C-USA Baseball Championship All-Tournament Team.
ODU’s 42 wins this year are the most in a season since 1986, when the Monarchs went 43-16. Only two ODU teams have won more than 42 games in a season.
Today’s win guarantees the program’s ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2014. The NCAA selection show will take place at noon tomorrow on ESPN2.
“Plans don’t always turn out the way you want them to, but everything we hoped was going to happen for us this weekend, happened,” concluded Finwood. “And our guys made it happen. I’m so happy and proud of our guys, their picture is going up on our outfield wall.”
Russell D. Anderson Most Valuable Player:
Tommy Bell – Old Dominion
2021 Air Force Reserve C-USA Baseball Championship All-Tournament Team:
C – Brock Gagliardi – Old Dominion
INF – Christopher Sargent – Southern Miss
INF – Hunter Wells – Louisiana Tech
INF – Tommy Bell – Old Dominion
INF – Manny Garcia – Louisiana Tech
OF – Bobby Morgensen – Florida Atlantic
OF – Parker Bates – Louisiana Tech
OF – Andy Garriola – Old Dominion
DH/UT – Steele Netterville – Louisiana Tech
P – Hunter Stanley – Southern Miss
P – Hunter Gregory – Old Dominion
P – Greg Martinez – Louisiana Tech
P – Aaron Brown – Middle Tennessee