The Blue Raiders found no relief from their struggles on the diamond Tuesday when Lipscomb came to town to play a single game before Middle heads on the road for much of the month of March.
A strong performance from starting pitcher Eric Gilley gave Raider fans a reason to hopeful, but the team could not hold of a late Bison rally, leading to a 5-3 Middle Tennessee loss.
Lipscomb struck first in the top of the third inning, but Middle struck back in the bottom of the inning by playing small ball.
Hank LaRue was able to get on base to start the inning for the Raiders. He advanced to second on what should have been a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Ford, but Ford was able to reach base on a throwing error by the Bison pitcher, Chris Nunn.
Justin Guidry was able to drive LaRue in on a sacrifice groundout after Johnny Thomas advanced both runners into scoring position with a groundout of his own.
Middle built their lead up through the next few innings. In the fourth, LaRue drove in Davis Pearce with a two-out RBI double.
Then, in the seventh, Middle extended their lead to two on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Acker to bring home Thomas.
Gilley got in a jam in the seventh inning when he walked a man with one out. The base-runner advanced to second on a wild throw before making his way to third on a sacrifice bunt. A fly ball to left field got Gilley out of the jam with not real damage.
The eighth inning saw everything fall apart for Middle Tennessee. Head coach Steve Peterson chose to pitch starter Hunter Adkins with his bullpen’s recent struggles.
Adkins’ first two batters faced reached base. The third put down a sacrifice but to advance the players into scoring positions. It wouldn’t matters, as Richie Goodenow would take a pitch from Adkins out of the park, giving Lipscomb a four to three lead.
“He obviously wasn’t what we needed for the eighth inning,” Peterson said. “My genius decision turned out to be a very bad decision.”
The bottom of the eighth inning brought a chess match of sorts between the two coaches, each trying to match pitchers against hitters to gain an advantage for their team.
Four separate pitchers would grace the mound for Lipscomb in the inning; one would not even throw a pitch. Meanwhile, Middle would counter with just at many batting and running substitutions of its own.
“You try to put players in the best advantage,” Peterson said. “Coaches try to put players in situations where they can win games. When you start making these moves it’s going to be very easy for me to go home and say what if I just folded my arms and didn’t do anything.”
In the end, it would make little difference for Middle. Another run in the top of the ninth for Lipscomb would all but victory for the Bison.
While he did not get a winning decision today, Gilley did pitch a good game for the Raiders, going seven innings and giving up only three hits and one earned run while striking out eight.
“He pitched his best ballgame of the early season,” Peterson said. “Very disappointing we couldn’t get him a win.”
Middle will now head on the road for five games, including meetings against Belmont and Kentucky, before returning home on March 15 to face Southern Illinois in a two-game series.
Now, with a record of one and seven, Middle hopes to turn things around before playing another game in Murfreesboro.
“Thank goodness we have an opportunity to practice tomorrow before we get on the road,” Peterson said. “We have to play a solid ball game to win a ball game, and that’s what we’re not doing.”