The MTSU baseball team stayed in the Conference USA race with a series win over Old Dominion this weekend. The Blue Raiders won the first two games of the series, 1-0, 11-8 on Friday and Saturday evening. The series concluded on Sunday with ODU winning 4-3 in seven innings, because of a curfew and anticipated rain in the area.
Heavy rain in the area caused a stop in play at 1:48 p.m. with ODU batting in the top of the seventh and the Blue Raiders leading 3-1. It was the first rain delay of the season for MTSU, and it lasted one hour and 26 minutes.
When played resumed at 3:14 p.m., ODU DH Ben Slaton singled to center to score two runs and tie the score at 3 in the top of the seventh. The Monarchs took the lead 4-3, when second baseman P.J. Higgins hit a sac fly to right to score left fielder Nick Walker from third base.
The Blue Raiders had a chance to tie the score in the bottom of the seventh when junior second baseman Austin Bryant singled to left to start the inning. However, ODU reliever Brad Gero struck out the side to end the threat and the game.
“It was very disappointing,” MTSU head coach Jim McGuire said in the postgame radio interview. “We are in a situation to win the game going into the seventh inning. (Pitcher Johnathan) Frebis pitched well and had done a good job. The first two (ODU) guys get on, and you did not know when the weather was coming. We knew we were going to get some before it was over with. We made up our mind; we were going to (relief pitcher Kooper) Kessler right away if we got in trouble. We caught a bad break. The bad break was it started to downpour, when he was trying to face their lead off hitter, and he has got him 1-2. It starts raining heavier, and then he walks him.
“Then they stop it, and we got an hour and a half rain delay. We tried to go back out there with Kessler, and he did not have it after the rain delay. That is a tough decision to make on what to do.”
The game was called after seven innings, because of a predetermined curfew agreed by both teams since ODU had to return back to Virginia. Kessler picked up the loss to drop to 2-2 on the season. Frebis pitched 6.1 innings, giving up four hits, two runs and had seven strikeouts to get the no-decision.
The Monarchs got on the board first in the top of the third when Blue Raider junior and former Riverdale star Frebis threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded, which brought home ODU shortstop Tyler Urps to make the score 1-0.
MTSU added two runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead and chase out ODU starter Victor Diaz. Blue Raider senior third baseman Hank LaRue was hit by a pitch to start the inning, then senior first baseman Trent Miller doubled down the left field line for MTSU’s first hit of the game.
The Blue Raiders tied the game at one, when Diaz was called for a balk and it scored LaRue from third. Junior catcher Michael Adkins doubled to left, which scored Miller from third to put MTSU ahead 2-1 after four innings.
MTSU added another run in the bottom of the fifth, when senior right fielder Jake Ellison singled to left. He later scored when junior shortstop Dustin Delgado doubled down the left field line to bring home Ellison and made the score 3-1, Blue Raiders after five innings.
It was the first time these two teams met as conference rivals, and it was the first meeting between the programs since the 2000 NCAA tournament. MTSU won the game 6-5 over ODU on May 27, 2000 during the Clemson Regional.
The Blue Raiders won the first game of the series on Friday when senior starting pitcher Zac Curtis pitched a three-hit, 11 strikeout gem and junior left fielder Jared Allen hit a home run for the only run in a 1-0 victory.
There was a lot more scoring in the following day’s game with MTSU winning 11-8, which included home runs by senior first baseman Trent Miller and senior centerfielder Ryan Stephens. Overall, MTSU had 16 hits and a five-run fourth inning to improve its record to (22-21, 11-9). It was the first time the Blue Raiders were above .500 on the season since opening day in February.
After today's loss, the Blue Raiders are tied for seventh in the C-USA standings, which if the season ended today, they would qualify for the conference tournament on May 21 at Southern Miss. Only the top eight teams in C-USA make the postseason. Last season, MTSU missed the Sun Belt Conference postseason in its final year in the league.
The Blue Raiders head to Tennessee on Tuesday for a 5 p.m. first pitch. The following day, MTSU host Austin Peay at 6 p.m., and then host C-USA rival UTSA this weekend with Friday’s game starting at 6 p.m.