April 2, 2015
RUSTON, La. - Louisiana Tech will look to dodge inclement weather once again as the Bulldogs wrap up a busy week with an important three-game Conference USA series against newcomer WKU beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
The middle game of the series between LA Tech and WKU is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday before the weekend is set to conclude at 1 p.m. Sunday.
LA Tech (12-13) is coming off back-to-back victories over in-state opponents after defeating Grambling State, 17-12, Tuesday and knocking off ULM, 3-2, Wednesday night in Ruston. The Bulldogs are currently 1-7 in league play and are looking to rebound after three losses to Charlotte last weekend on the road.
Although LA Tech has struggled in road games this season, the Bulldogs have been solid when playing at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park with a 9-3 record at home in 2015. This weekend marks the second C-USA series the Bulldogs will play in Ruston after LA Tech and Southern Miss split two games a couple weeks back before the series finale was rained out.
As a first-year member of Conference USA, Western Kentucky enters the weekend with an even 13-13 overall record, including a 4-5 mark in league play, but the Hilltoppers have struggled on the diamond as of late. Last weekend, WKU was swept by UAB in Bowling Green, Kentucky to give the Hilltoppers four losses in their last five games. In previous C-USA series, WKU won two of three over Old Dominion and UTSA.
An old Sun Belt rivalry is renewed this weekend when LA Tech and Western Kentucky meet on the diamond for the 27th time in the series opener Friday. The Bulldogs and Hilltoppers were both members of the Sun Belt from 1992 to 2001 before Tech joined the WAC, and in that stretch, the two teams compiled a 13-13 series record against each other. The last meeting between LA Tech and WKU came in 2001 when the Bulldogs won the series over the Hilltoppers by taking two of three in a conference series at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park in Ruston. The all-time series is also tied, 6-6, in games played in Ruston.
At the plate
Louisiana Tech enters the series with a .247 team batting average, but the Bulldogs are steadily improving in the box with a .261 average in the last five games. In 25 games, LA Tech has 33 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs with a .344 on base percentage in 2015. Senior first baseman Taylor Nichols is currently leading the charge for the Bulldogs with a .316 clip with five doubles, six runs batted in and a .400 on base percentage. Freshman Brent Diaz is LA Tech's leading RBI guy with 18 runs driven in after a seven-RBI performance against Grambling Tuesday night. Diaz is hitting .291 with a team-high three home runs in his freshman season.
The Hilltoppers come to Ruston as one of Conference USA's top hitting teams with a .280 average in 26 games, while WKU hitters have combined for 47 doubles, four triples and a league-high 21 home runs. The Toppers have five hitters above the .300 mark in batting average with Ryan Church and Anderson Miller leading the way with 22 and 21 runs batted in each.
On the mound
The Bulldog pitching staff comes into this weekend with a 4.43 team earned run average, while senior right-hander Phil Maton continues to impress on the mound. Maton leads LA Tech with a 3-1 record and 2.81 ERA in seven starts this season, while the senior leads all C-USA pitchers with 45 strikeouts. Coming into the weekend, Maton has 279 career strikeouts and is just one shy of tying Richard Hunter (1989-92) for third place all-time on LA Tech's career strikeouts list. Left-hander Tyler Clancy (3-3; 4.22 ERA) will start the series opener for the Bulldogs, while Maton is set to start Game 2 of the series Saturday. LA Tech has yet to name a starter for the series finale.
As for WKU's pitching staff, the Hilltoppers have a 4.84 ERA in 26 appearances on the season. Left-hander Ryan Thurston (1-1; 4.81 ERA) will start on Friday for WKU before right-hander Josh Bartley (4-2; 5.35 ERA) and lefty Austin King (1-3; 5.64 ERA) will close out the weekend rotation Saturday and Sunday.
WITH THE CALL
Fans can tune in to the LA Tech Sports Network on KNBB 97.7 FM to hear the voice of the Bulldogs, Dave Nitz, call all the action from The Love Shack for all three games this weekend against the Hilltoppers. The series can also be seen and heard by LA Tech All-Access subscribers. Live stats will be available via GameTracker by accessing the link on the baseball schedule page on LATechSports.com.
Friday night's series opener will mark First Responders Night as well as LTAC Appreciation at the ball park. All first responders and LTAC members can purchase discounted tickets for Friday's game for $3 each. For LTAC Appreciation Night, all LTAC members will receive a voucher for a free hot dog and Pepsi drink during the 6 p.m. contest between LA Tech and WKU.
A bounce house will be available for all kids in attendance both Saturday and Sunday, while an Easter Egg Hunt will also take place immediately following the 3 p.m. game Saturday. Sunday will mark Kid's Day at the ball park as all kids in attendance will have the opportunity to run the bases on the field following the 1 p.m. series finale between the Bulldogs and Hilltoppers.
The Bulldogs are once again set to embark on a busy week with a total of five games scheduled throughout next week. LA Tech will host UALR in a pair of games Tuesday and Wednesday with both games set to begin at 6 p.m. on back-to-back nights. The Bulldogs then hit the road for the eight-hour trip to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to take on Middle Tennessee in a three-game Conference USA series, which is set to begin at 6 p.m. CT Friday, April 10.
For complete coverage of Bulldog Baseball, please follow @LATechBSB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at LATechSports.com.