Sunday’s rubber match against Louisiana-Monroe was an important one for Blue Raider baseball as they faced one of their competitors for the final spot in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.
The team came through on the tails of a solid pitching performance from senior Eric Gilley who pitched 8 innings, allowing only two runs on three hits while striking out six in the Raiders 6-2 victory.
“I’m just glad I could stay in that long,” Gilley said. “I think I threw close to 120 pitches, but I felt good. We had a good win as a team.”
On the offensive end, everything for Middle Tennessee came in the third inning. Trent Miller started things off with a double. Ryan Ford attempted to bunt Miller over, but after two failed attempts was given the go ahead to swing.
The mistake ended up going in the favor of the Raiders as Ford dribbled a slow roller across the infield and was able to run it out for a single, putting runners on first and third.
Johnny Thomas singled home the runner on third and, movie Ford over to third after a stealing second. Justin Guidry then doubled to center field driving in two runs; Guidry was able to advance to third on a field error by the ULM centerfielder.
The next batter, Will Skinner, hit a bomb over the left field wall, giving Middle Tennessee a five-run inning on five hits.
In the fourth inning it looked as though Middle may pick up right where they left off when Trent Miller crushed a ball over the left field wall and off the side of Floyd Stadium. However, The Raiders could not keep things going, with only two more hits for the remainder of the game.
“You would think, on a day like today, there would have been more deep fly balls,” Raider coach Steve Peterson said. “The two starting pitchers were obviously the difference.”
Gilley did not give up a hit until the fifth inning when ULM’s Taylor Abdalla led off with a solo homer. Gilley responded immediately by retiring the next three batters, striking out two batters looking.
From the sixth through the eighth, Gilley only gave up one hit. In the top of the ninth he came back out looking for a complete game. However, Joey Rapp started the ninth off by taking Gilley deep out of right-center field.
“It was just a great, great day by Eric Gilley,” Peterson said. “If we didn’t have that five-run lead I would have never sent him out, but I wanted to give him an opportunity to get a complete game, he had pitched so well.”
Middle is currently eighth in the Sun Belt conference with 15 conference games remaining, including a home series against rival Western Kentucky to finish the season.
“It’s the biggest series win we’ve had until next week,” Peterson said. “We’ve got four more conference weekends. Each weekend is the biggest. What this was huge for is that I really feel like we’re going to be chasing Monroe or Monroe is going to be chasing up and this gives up a tie-breaker.”
The Raiders will travel to Knoxville to take on the University of Tennessee Tuesday before returning home to face Belmont Wednesday at 6 P.M.