MTSU’s baseball team moved one step closer to advancing to the Conference USA tournament with a 6-2 victory over Marshall Thursday night.
All MTSU needs to do is win one more game, or Florida Atlantic lose one, and the Blue Raiders finish in the top eight, which clinches them a spot.
“It is a real big win, and this one is real important,” said starting pitcher Zac Curtis, who earned the win. “Marshall is a real good team and they might not be in postseason contention. They are not a team to mess around with, and we needed this win.”
This weekend, FAU is hosting No. 30 ranked UAB, and Thursday’s game was postponed until Friday because of bad weather. FAU and UAB will play a doubleheader starting Friday starting at noon, while the Blue Raiders host the Marshall at 6 p.m. Friday.
Curtis (8-3), pitched another gem, only giving up four hits, two runs and a walk in 7 2/3 innings of work. He fanned 12 Thundering Herd batters in the win.
“He has been doing the same thing every game this year,” senior first baseman Trent Miller said. “He has been getting ahead with each batter, and it was pretty impressive. He has been pitching his butt off this year, and it has been awesome to stand behind him and play for him.”
Curtis came into the game leading the nation in strikeouts with 118. He also had a 7-3 record and a 1.81 ERA. Last week, he pitched the first two-hit shutout for the Blue Raiders since 2009 in a 7-0 victory at Florida International.
“I have been getting ahead, and I have been throwing a lot more strikes,” Curtis said. “Last year, I was behind a lot and I was intimated by other hitters by their stats and how they looked in the box. This year it does not matter, and I just was getting ahead with fastballs. You can do anything you want after that.”
In the top of the second, the Thundering Herd scored two runs off of Curtis. First baseman TJ Diffenderfer crushed a home run over the left field fence, and right fielder Eric Escobedo scored off a double by designated hitter Spencer Iacovone to make the score 2-0.
The Blue Raiders tied the score in the bottom of the fourth when junior left fielder Jared Allen scored on an error by Marshall catcher Matt Reed, and MTSU junior catcher Michael Adkins singled to left to score senior center fielder Ryan Stephens to tie the score at two after four innings.
MTSU broke the game open in the bottom of the seventh with four runs. Junior shortstop Dustin Delgado singled to right to bring home Adkins, and senior third baseman Hank LaRue singled to center to score freshman right fielder Brad Jarreau.
Miller hit his C-USA leading 23rd double, scoring Delgado and LaRue to make the score 6-2 after seven innings. Miller finished the game going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Adkins was also 3-for-4 with a RBI in the win.
“It was two to two ball game, and they jumped on us early,” Miller said. “In the seventh, it was good to get a couple of guys on and get them in. That double was a little lucky. The guy lost it in the sky when it got dark out. The team really jumped on them, and we finally got a few runs for Curtis.”
Curtis threw 7 2/3 innings to pick up the win, and Kooper Kessler worked the final 1 2/3 to close out the game.
The two teams meet again at 6 p.m. Friday at Reese Smith Jr. Field. Senior Day and the regular season finale will be Saturday at 1 p.m.