ODU falls from Conference USA baseball tourney as Louisiana Tech walks off for semifinal win


Old Dominion exited the Conference USA baseball championship tournament Saturday night when Louisiana Tech pinch hitter Walker Burchfield hit a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth for an 8-7 semifinal victory before 2,873 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The 64 NCAA teams to qualify for regionals will be revealed at noon Monday on ESPNU. Bracket projections have the Monarchs (41-17) as one of the last at-large teams in the field or one of the first out.

Before its deflating defeat in the evening, ODU added a dramatic 9-6, 13-inning résumé-boosting victory in the afternoon over Louisiana Tech. The third-seeded Monarchs won three of their five games at the eight-team tournament, with both losses to the Bulldogs.

Second-seeded Louisiana Tech advanced to face Texas San Antonio in the championship game Sunday afternoon. The Roadrunners ousted homestanding Southern Miss, the top seed.

Like many teams who play so many games in such a short time, ODU needed to improvise its pitching Saturday night. Louisiana Tech went ahead 2-0 in the first inning, but ODU scored four in the top of the fourth. The Bulldogs pulled even with two in the bottom of the fourth.

Louisiana Tech went ahead 6-5 in the eighth, but ODU briefly could celebrate in the top of the ninth. Robbie Petracci reached on a throwing error to lead off, and catcher Brock Gagliardi belted a two-run homer to right-center to give the Monarchs a 7-6 lead.

But Louisiana Tech got the next three batters out and began its winning rally off Nick Pantos (6-1), who’s normally a starter but who was the sixth ODU pitcher to take the mound Saturday night.

Steele Netterville walked and Cole McConnell singled, prompting ODU coach Chris Finwood to pull Pantos in favor of Vincent Bashara for relief. Jorge Corona was hit by a 2-2 pitch to load the bases with none out. Bashara struck out Myers, but Burchfield looped the first pitch he saw into left-center. Left fielder Andy Garriola’s throw hopped by Gagliardi as McConnell slid for the winning run, ending the Monarchs’ hopes of a title repeat.

The ending was much more fun earlier in the day for ODU.

Andy Garriola drove in the go-ahead run as the Monarchs outlasted Louisiana Tech 9-6 in 13 innings. Left-hander Jason Hartline pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his third appearance in four days for the victory.

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“This game was about a fifth-year senior pitching his heart out,” Finwood said of Hartline, a Greenbrier Christian graduate, on odusports.com. “He came into the dugout every inning sweating bullets. I’d ask ‘how are you feeling?’ and he kept telling me, ‘I can keep going.’

“He was our last bullet to fire in that game and he wasn’t going to be denied. He just wasn’t coming out. Those kinds of performances, that’s something you never forget.”

In the top of the 13th, Thomas Wheeler singled and went to second on Carter Trice’s sacrifice bunt. Matt Coutney singled Wheeler to third, from where he scored on Garriola’s single. Several hundred ODU fans and thousands of Southern Miss fans, who had shown up to watch their Golden Eagles play UTSA, cheered.

Pinch runner Josh Trujillo stole second, and the Bulldogs intentionally walked Gagliardi to load the bases. Seldom-used Ryan Teschko, with two previous hits this season in 16 at-bats, then knocked a two-run single to right field.

After pulling starter Tommy Gertner in the third, Finwood and pitching coach Mike Marron employed Connor Muly, Brad Dobzanski, Joey DeChiaro, Bashara, Brett Smith, Noah Dean, Pantos and Hartline out of the bullpen. They limited Louisiana Tech to two runs in the final nine innings.

Home runs by Garriola (his third of the tournament) and Kenny Levari helped ODU lead 6-1 after 2 1/2 innings, but the Bulldogs scored three runs in the bottom of the third and one apiece in the seventh and eighth to pull even.

So after 22 roller-coaster innings Saturday, the Monarchs must wait a day to see if they’ll play in the NCAAs.



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