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NCAA Regional Opponent Preview: Louisiana Tech

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Meet the Bulldogs... Your Ruston Regional hosts

NCAA BASEBALL: MAR 14 Louisiana Tech at Rice Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: Louisiana Tech

Mascot: Bob Barker | School Location: Ruston, LA | Conference: CUSA

2021 Record: 41-18 (22-8, 1st West) | 2021 RPI Rank: 24

2020 Record: 11-6 (0-0, T-1st) | 2019 RPI Rank: 67

2019 Record: 34-24 (17-13,3rd) | 2018 RPI Rank: 61


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park (Ruston, LA)

Game Time(s): Sat, Jun 5 @ 7:00pm

TV: ESPN3 / WatchESPN

Radio: TuneIn

Live Stats: NCAA Scoreboard


Tell me about this team

Louisiana Tech was a very strong baseball program under longtime head coach Pat Patterson, including five 40+ win seasons from 1978-1988. Unfortunately, the program dropped off quickly after he retired in 1990, becoming an also-ran while bouncing around four different conferences in under 25 years.

Insert Greg Goff (what the hell - two straight previews mentioning this guy?!). Seeing what Goff did at Campbell, the Louisiana Tech administration pulled him out of Buies Creek hoping he could do the same thing in Ruston - rebound a stagnant program.

Yeah, that plan worked. In Goff’s first season, he improved the Bulldogs by 100 spots in the RPI. In 2016, his second year, Goff bested that initial effort, improving the Bulldogs’ RPI ranking by 112 spots, but even more importantly, he returned Louisiana Tech to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1987.

Following that season, Goff peaced out for Alabama (that didn’t go well, as you know by now).

Enter Lane Burroughs.

Burroughs had a solid resume, having successful stints at Southern Miss and Mississippi State, among others, laying the groundwork for those programs that would each subsequently reach the College World Series following his departure with rosters stacked of players he recruited and developed.

Louisiana Tech is itself a developmental program. They build on the backs of four- and five-year players. The Bulldogs haven’t had a player drafted in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft since 2007, yet this is the 6th straight season where Louisiana Tech has finished inside the RPI Top 70. But the recipe for success - and what has got Louisiana Tech to the point of not only returning to an NCAA Regional this year, but hosting it - has been that game plan. The execution of which is what you’ll see throughout the roster.

This 2021 Bulldogs team is an experienced group. The starting lineup features two underclassmen (both sophomores), and of the 11 top pitchers by inning pitched, only one is an underclassman - and that guy ranks 6th by that metric.

They mash, they work walks, they (outside of one strikeout machine) don’t really strike out all that much. With a team that hits this well, they don’t play a ton of small ball, nor should they.

Louisiana Tech is from one of a handful of conferences that played four-game conference series this year. It’ll be interesting to see if that plays to their favor from a pitching perspective should they need to go four games deep in this regional. The pitching staff doesn’t blow hitters away, but they don’t get rattled often either. They’ll challenge hitters and force them to outslug their own hitters. And, as noted, they have no shortage of starting options.

This is a battle-tested, experienced Louisiana Tech team. They’ll be as tough as anything NC State faced in ACC play this year. We’re in for an interesting Saturday night.


Who’s on the mound for these guys?

Friday: RHP Jarret Whorff (SR) or RHP Ryan Jennings (rJR)


Key Players:

Offense

3B Hunter Wells (rSR) - .375/.442/.625, 18 2B, 3 3B, 13 HR, 65 R, 59 RBI, 30 BB, 36 K, 1-2 SB. Switch-hitting two-hole hitter and the program’s all-time career hits leader. Put together a 4-5, 9 RBI performance vs Rider in the regional opener.

CR Parker Bates (SR) - .352/.474/.565, 13 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 61 R, 57 RBI, 40 BB, 24 K, 14 HBP, 1-2 SB. Left-handed 3-hole hitter. Had a string of four consecutive multi-hit games broken in the opener vs Rider, although he still smacked a home run and reached on a walk.

2B Taylor Young (SR) - .336/.459/.515, 18 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 80 R, 36 RBI, 45 BB, 48 K, 11 HBP, 10-13 SB. Named a 3rd Team All-American this year. Leadoff hitter and, as you’d expect, the most aggressive baserunner. Four-year starter who has a career slash line of .318/.452/.456 over 182 games.

1B Manny Garcia (SR) - .323/.392/.535, 20 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 36 R, 52 RBI, 21 BB, 33 K, 2-2 SB. Native of Puerto Rico. Former JUCO player struggled with the bat over his first two years on campus, but since settling in at 1B has started swinging a big stick.

Pitching

RHP Jarret Whorff (SR) - 9-2, 3.66 ERA, 78.2 IP, 85 H, 27 BB, 64 K. Whorff is the the Bulldogs #2 starter, but just because he’s not the ace doesn’t mean he’s not without talent. Back in March against #1 Arkansas, Whorff tossed a complete game two-hit shutout with 10 K. He’s allowed 9 ER over his last three starts (11.0 IP), so hopefully he’s more of who he’s been lately and less of who he was against #1.

RHP Ryan Jennings (rJR) - 5-3, 4.38 ERA, 78.0 IP, 80 H, 24 BB, 69 K. Jennings is the other option as the Bulldogs starter in this one as he was actually the team’s 2nd best pitcher in conference play. His weakness is giving up the long ball, having surrendered 13 this year. He’s also plunked 15 batters.

RHP Kyle Crigger (SR) - 3-2, 5 SV, 3.69 ERA, 31.2 IP, 32 H, 6 BB, 27 K. Former JUCO transfer who is LaTech’s top bullpen arm. He’s gone 2.0+ IP in 7 of 17 appearances, so used more as a stopper than a true closer.

RHP Landon Tomkins (JR) - 3-2, 5 SV, 5.46 ERA, 28.0 IP, 22 H, 17 BB, 28 K. Struggled down the stretch, allowing runs in 9 of his last 11 outings.

LHP Cade Gibson (rSR) - 4-3, 5.97 ERA, 69.1 IP, 87 H, 18 BB, 64 K. One of the Bulldogs’ four weekend starters. I would assume they would try to save Gibson for a potential 4th game in the regional, but given the team’s lack of LHP options, he may be the guy they turn to if it’s a tight game and they need a lefty-on-lefty matchup.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC State and Louisiana Tech have never met on the baseball diamond.

Longtime Durham Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo played collegiately at Louisiana Tech before being drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 6th round of the 1987 MLB Draft.

Louisiana Tech has one active alum playing at the MLB level in 2021: RHP Phil Maton (CLE).


Prediction

In NC State’s favor for this one is that Louisiana Tech pitched their ace, LHP Jonathan Fincher, in their regional opening win versus Rider. Sam Highfill takes the mound for State.

Outcome: Well... we’ll see...