The MTSU softball team finished off a five-game home stand last weekend with a key Sun Belt Conference series against Louisiana at Monroe.
Caty Jutson (22) pitched a shutout Saturday in the Blue Raiders’ 4-0 win over the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. TMP/B. Lambert (MTSU)
The Blue Raiders took two out of three and picked up its first SBC wins of the season.
The Blue Raiders won the first two games, 4-0 on Saturday and the first game of a doubleheader 6-4 on Sunday. The Warhawks finished up the series with an 8-2 win in the second game of the doubleheader.
Overall the Blue Raiders went 4-1 at Blue Raider Field during the home stand.
“It’s was really big, because it gave us a boost of confidence that we really needed,” Blue Raider senior catcher Natalie Ysais said after Sunday’s second game. “It’s let’s us know that we can do it if we play our game.”
The Blue Raiders started off the home stand with a double header sweep on March 21 against Evansville (5-2, 1-0.) The winning streak continued this past weekend with a 4-0 win on March 25 against its SBC rival, the Warhawks.
Last Saturday, both teams were scheduled to play a double header, but weather was a factor. Rain fell throughout the first game, but it was able to be completed. However, it between games, a heavy thundershower hit the area.
MTSU was able to put the new tarp on the field before the hard rain hit. After a few minutes both coaches decided just to move Game 2 to Sunday morning.
In Game 1 Blue Raider senior pitcher Caty Jutson pitched a gem, tossing a complete game six-hit shutout and striking out five Warhawk batters.
“She has been one of the steadiest players on the team this year,” fifth-year Blue Raider head coach Sue Nevar said after Saturday’s game. “She has provided that stability we need on the mound. If she can throw those kinds of games time after time, and if we can supply four or five runs, we are going to win.”
MTSU also got a two-run homer from freshman shortstop Samantha Nieves in deep center. Nevar gives several reasons why the team has been successful during the home stand.
“It’s always good to be at home,” Nevar said. “We are now starting to put it all together. We still do not have everybody in the groove hitting, and I am excited to see what happens when everybody starts hitting.”
A couple of stats to keep in mind for the Blue Raiders in order for them to be successful, including the March 24 win, MTSU is 8-0 when leading after six innings and 11-2 when giving up less than five runs.
However, in last Sunday’s first game, MTSU started slow by giving up four Warhawk runs in the top of the first thanks to a couple of infield errors. Before the end of the inning, Nevar made subbed out the catcher going to the senior and one of the team leaders Natalie Ysais to help calm down the infield. It helped as the defense held the Warhawks scoreless for the rest of the game.
Also, the Blue Raider bats came to life with two runs in the bottom of the first and two more in the third to tie the score at four. Senior right fielder Kelsey Woodruff crushed a double off the fence which bought home sophomore second baseman Kayla Toney and senior first baseman Kaycee Popham.
MTSU took the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Ysais nailed a two-run homer over the left field fence that also scored Toney. The Blue Raiders got a five hit complete game from sophomore pitcher Shelby Stinnett in the 6-4 victory.
Jutson was back in the circle for the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader. ULM got on the board first, but Popham popped a pitch over the centerfield wall to even the score at one. Later on during the at-bat, the Blue Raiders loaded the bases. Yesterday hero Nieves fouled off several pitches on a full count, but she lined out to the Warhawk first baseman. She also touched the base to complete the ULM double play. The Blue Raiders were not able to take advantage of the bases being loaded.
ULM took the lead in the top of the third with a run coming across, and then broke it open with six more runs in the top of the fifth including a two-run homer by Warhawk first baseman Janel Salanoa over the left field wall.
The Blue Raiders added a run in the bottom of the sixth, when Toney scored on a sacrifice fly by Ysais. Next up for the Blue Raiders is a weekend series at South Alabama with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. on March 31.