A six-run outburst out of No. 16 Louisiana Tech over the first three innings proved to be too much for MTSU's baseball team, as the Blue Raiders (21-18-1, C-USA 10-10-1) fell 9-7 in the series opener with the Bulldogs (29-11, C-USA 15-6).
"I liked the fight out of our team tonight," said MTSU coach Jim Toman. "We hung in there and were one hit away from tying (the game) up at the end."
Five straight hits to open up the game led to three early runs for Louisiana Tech, which would add two more runs in the second and another in the third.
The Blue Raiders were able to muster some early offense themselves. Hunter Sullivan continued swinging a hot bat, roping an RBI double to left field to plate Brett Coker for MTSU's first run. Sullivan then stole third base and was driven in on a deep sacrifice fly to right center field by DJ Wright for the Blue Raiders second run of the day in the bottom of the second.
After drawing a lead-off walk in the third inning, Fausto Lopez stole second and then eventually came in to score on a defensive mishap by the Bulldogs. MTSU totaled four stolen bases in both the second and third innings, and wound up with a total of seven on the night. The Blue Raiders currently sit in the top five nationally with 92 stolen bases as a team this season.
"If we get guys on base we're going," Toman said. "That's the best way for this team to score runs. We've been looking to do something to create runs, so that's why we've been running so much."
First baseman Daniel Freeman slugged his first career homer, tucking a ball just inside the left field foul pole. The solo- hot was Freeman's sixth RBI of the season since taking over as the everyday first baseman.
MTSU made a late-push in the bottom of the ninth. Lopez and Bryce Symlar pulled off a double steal with one man out. After Symlar scored on a wild pitch, it set the table for third baseman Brett Coker, who knocked an RBI single to left field to plate Lopez and advance Cole Escher to third, making it a 9-7 game with two men out.
Coker stole the seventh and final base of the night for the Blue Raiders, putting the tying run on second base and the winning run at the plate in the form of Daniel Freeman, who unfortunately bounced out to Louisiana Tech shortstop to end it.
"That's the No. 16 team in the country," Toman said. "We showed a lot of fight and toughness and I'm proud of our guys for hanging in there with them tonight."
On the mound, Drew Vaden had one of the better outings of his Blue Raider career out of the bullpen, going 3.1 innings and allowing just one earned run. The left-hander picked up two strikeouts and didn't walk a single Bulldog hitter.
Sullivan paced the Blue Raiders offensively, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with an RBI, a run and two stolen bases.
The Blue Raiders are slated for a doubleheader with the Bulldogs Saturday. First pitch at Reese Smith Jr. Field is set for 1 p.m.