It was far from a pitchers’ duel at Reese Smith Jr. Field in Murfreesboro as the Raiders out-slugged South Alabama to claim a dramatic 13-11 victory Sunday afternoon.
The game was an 11-inning affair and Will Skinner was the hero with a clutch, walk-off homerun with two out and one on.
Skinner scorched a pitch from South Alabama’s Carlton Paris into the strong wind and over the wall in left-center field to score himself and Justin Guidry, who had reached on a two-out single moments before.
Apart from Skinner’s late game heroics, the most important player of the day for Middle may well have been Trent Miller, who, after being subbed in for Jeff Miller mid-way through the game, went two for two at the plate with an RBI and two runs scored.
Miller, a freshman, hit his first career homerun as a Raider in the seventh inning, which ended up being vital in keeping Middle Tennessee alive for a chance to win in extra innings.
The Raiders went down early after Jaguar catcher Brent Tanner hit a two-run shot off of starting pitcher Eric Gilley, adding another run in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Jeff Deblieux.
However, in the bottom of the fourth Middle would respond. Guidry hit a two-run homer to start off the inning. Then, with two runners on, Ryan Ford hit a single into right field that was mishandled by the fielder, allowing Ford to make his way to third and two runs to score, putting Middle up four to three.
Middle didn’t hold the lead long. In the top of the fifth South Alabama scored four runs of their own with four hits and two walks in the inning.
The lead came back in the Raiders direction in the bottom of the sixth with an offensive explosion. Six runs were scored in the inning on three consecutive RBIs on extra base hits, including a stand up triple from Hank LaRue, putting Middle on top 10 to seven.
In the seventh South Alabama kicked off the inning with a homerun off of relief pitcher Jud Stoltz. Then, after loading the bases, Stoltz was removed in favor of Paul Mittura, who was able to get out of the pitching jam relatively unscathed, keeping the Raiders on top 10 to nine.
In the top of the ninth, Middle took the field up by 11 to nine and looking to close things out with Mittura on the mound. With one out Jordan Patter hit a high, fly ball off the foul pole in right field for a home run.
Two batter later Brad Hook hit a ball high in the air that looked as though it would be fielded by Will Skinner for the game’s final out. However, the ball caught up in the wind and drifted just over the wall in right.
With the game now tied, South Alabama put runners on first and second. Raider coach Steve Peterson called to the bullpen again for Cody Tollison, who ended the inning on one pitch as the Jaguar batter grounded out to third.
Tollison kept things knotted up in the top of the tenth despite walking tow.
Then, in the bottom of the inning, with the game tied at 11, Will Skinner stepped up to the plate and ripped the first pitch he saw out of the park in left to win the game.
“The whole day they were just throwing off speed away,” Skinner said. “I was just looking of a pitcher middle or away that I could get a good bat on and hit it out to right field because the wind was howling out that way.”
“He threw a first pitch fastball in and I just got my hands inside of it, hit it well, and it ended up going out.”
Sunday’s win gave Middle their first series win in conference play this season. The team’s next game is scheduled for Tuesday night at Vanderbilt before coming back home Wednesday to play Austin Peay, both games are at 6 P.M.