GSA Spotlight: Louisiana Tech's Ethan Bates

Photo credit: Louisiana Tech Athletics

This was a tough loss.


The 2023 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs had grabbed an 11-10 lead in the top of the 10th inning on Ethan Bates’ solo homer … only to see Florida Atlantic draw three walks before current major-leaguer Nolan Schanuel smacked a two-run, walk-off single for a 12-11 victory.

After the game, Bulldogs coach Lane Burroughs watched his players as they were visibly upset … except for one.

“I see Ethan scrolling through his phone,” Burroughs said with a laugh. “He was looking at four-wheelers he could rebuild and sell.”

This is not to say that Bates takes losses lightly.

In fact, his father, Rodger Bates, said his son wouldn’t even talk to him after the Bulldogs got swept by Arizona earlier this month.

“He was so mad,” Rodger said. “He’s the most competitive person I know.”

So, yes, Bates is competitive, but the native of Hot Springs, Arkansas also loves the country life – hunting, fishing and repairing four-wheelers.

Rodger said his son rarely asks for money because he earns what he needs with his mechanical skill.

“I taught myself,” Ethan Bates said when asked how he learned how to fix these all-terrain vehicles. “I just figured it out.”

Just “figuring it out” is also a good description of Bates’ baseball career.

Bates is No. 1 in the nation in career saves among active players with 24. He is also the only player in the country with at least 10 saves and 10 or more homers.

Bates was an All-State middle infielder at Navarro (Texas) College in 2022, hitting .324.

But when Navarro ran into injury issues late that season, coach Whoa Dill asked Bates if he could pitch.

Bates proved he could, going 1-1, 3.24 in three starts and three relief appearances, notching two saves and one complete game.

“The last three weeks, he shoved,” Dill said. “A lot of middle infielders with quick arms have good breaking balls, and that’s what Ethan has. He can really spin the ball, and he’s a strike-thrower.

“He’s also highly competitive. He thinks he can beat the New York Yankees. That’s his mindset.”

Bates, a 22-year-old Sociology major who is set to graduate in May, comes from a big family – and many of his kin live within walking distance of his house.

Rodger estimates that there are at least 10 houses in his neighborhood in which the families living there are related to Bates.

Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays became block parties for the Bates clan, but this family is more than just tight-knit.

They’re athletic, too.

Rodger said he has an uncle, Doug Rodgers, who could throw 100 mph in his youth. Another uncle, Manuel Bates, was a lefty who could throw 95.

In addition, Rodger said he was an NCAA Division II infielder at Arkansas Tech who could throw a football 70 yards before falling victim to arm injury, and his daughter, Emilee, was a pole vaulter at Southern Arkansas University. A shoulder injury ended her career, but that’s beside the point.

“There are some great arms in this family,” Rodger said. “If Ethan can increase his velocity (into the mid 90s), I don’t know that anybody would hit him with his breaking stuff.”

Arkansas, though, recruited Ethan Bates as a hitter. Bates committed to the Razorbacks during his sophomore year at Lakeside High.

“Growing up in Arkansas, that’s where you want to go,” Bates said. “Once I got that offer, how can you say no?”

As it turned out, Bates was a freshman on one of the greatest Arkansas teams ever – the 2021 Razorbacks squad that was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the end of the regular season.

In the postseason, Arkansas won its regional.

However, in the super regionals, after a 21-2 rout over North Carolina State, the Wolfpack upset Arkansas in two straight one-run games, ending the Razorbacks season.

Bates played in 17 games that season, including eight starts. He hit .250 with two doubles, six RBIs and a .639 OPS.

Shortly after that season ended, Bates put his name into the transfer portal.

“I loved it at Arkansas,” said Bates, who was used as a corner outfielder. “But I wanted to play every day, get solid at-bats.”

From there, Bates – a lefty hitter and a right-handed thrower -- transferred to Navarro for one season before landing at Louisiana Tech.

“We needed a lefty hitter and a third baseman,” Burroughs said. “We didn’t really know he could pitch, but (Dill from Navarro) called us and said: ‘You might want to pitch him.’”

The Louisiana Tech coaches listened to that advice in the fall of 2022, and they were stunned by the results.

“He carved us up,” Burroughs said.

That carried over to the 2023 season as Bates went 4-3 with a team-best 3.02 ERA in 25 relief appearances. His 10 saves ranked third-best in Conference USA and tied for second-most in program history.

As a hitter, Bates started 56 of Louisiana Tech’s 57 games, producing 25 extra-base hits, including 16 homers, and a .917 OPS.

Bates started 31 games at second base, 18 at third and seven at DH.

Listed at 6-0 and 185 pounds, Bates is stronger than he may look at the plate.

“Ethan has tremendous bat speed, and he knows the strike zone well,” Burroughs said. “One adjustment he has made this year is hitting to the opposite field, especially with two strikes.”

On the mound, Bates’ four-seam fastball sits 90-92. He has plus command of all his pitches, including his two-seam fastball that acts like a sinker, his curve/slider and his changeup.

“The beauty of Ethan is that he gets ahead of hitters, and he pitches to both sides of the plate,” Burroughs said. “And he can really field for a pitcher. There have been numerous times when a batter hits a bullet up the middle, and he just snags it.”

Burroughs believes Bates’ future in pro ball is on the mound.

“He has a gift of getting swings and misses,” Burroughs said. “He could be a back-end bullpen guy if his velocity ticks up a little bit.”

This season, Bates has played through a wrist injury that he kept secret from his coaches for a long time.

Still, he hasn’t missed a start, and he’s batting .314 with 16 doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 53 RBIs and a .979 OPS in 46 games.

In 26 appearances on the mound, he is 2-1, 2.57 with 14 saves and 44 strikeouts in 35 innings.

Of his 46 starts, 40 have come as a DH.

“Ethan doesn’t mind DH-ing,” Burroughs said. “He likes to hit, and he wants the ball at the end of the game.”

And he likes working on those four-wheelers, too. is your online home for college baseball scores, schedules, standings, statistics, analysis, features, podcasts and prospect coverage.