CLERMONT, Fla. – The Middle Tennessee softball team (7-3) finished up their play in the Dot Richardson Classic Sunday, going an impressive 4-1 in the tournament with a win over Louisville.
The Blue Raiders’ 7-3 record is their best ten-game start since 2004, when they also started 7-3. That was also Middle Tennessee’s last winning season, ending the year with a 35-23 record.
On Friday, the Blue Raiders split their two matchups, losing their first game 3-2 against UMass Lowell. MTSU rebounded, though, for a 5-2 win over South Dakota State.
The loss to UMass Lowell was MTSU’s first defeat in its last four games. It was also the first-ever game between the two schools.
This game was all about the third inning, as all five runs were scored in this inning.
The Blue Raiders scored their two runs in the top of the inning off a two-run double from junior Carlie Jenkins, plating both freshman Cor’Nisha Birdsong and junior Kiarra Freeman.
Two errors in the bottom of the inning proved to cost the Blue Raiders. The Blue Raiders committed a season-high three errors in the game.
With these miscues, the Skyhawks jumped out in front, 3-2, where they stayed for the remainder of the game.
Middle Tennessee managed only one hit for the rest of the game. UMass Lowell’s Erica Armenti picked up the win for the Skyhawks.
Junior Kelci Cheney took the loss despite giving up one earned run. The right-hander went a career-high six innings and struck out a season-high four batters.
Next, the Blue Raiders turned their attention to South Dakota State, which saw MTSU pick up its fourth win in the past five games, 5-2.
The game started off slow for both offenses. The first two innings went by with no runs being scored. Jenkins got MTSU on the board with a sac fly in the bottom of the third to drive in Birdsong.
The Jackrabbits came right back in the top of the fourth, tallying a run to tie the game at 1-1. Middle Tennessee answered in the bottom of the fourth after senior Alma Cortez gave MTSU a 2-1 lead with an RBI single.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Raiders put the game away, scoring three runs and taking the lead, 5-1. SDSU tallied a late run, but it proved to be too late as MTSU earned the split on the first day of the Dot Richardson Classic.
The second day of the tournament saw Middle Tennessee win both of its games, shutting out Florida A&M 7-0, and squeezing by Liberty 8-7 in a tight contest.
MTSU dominated Florida A&M from the first pitch as the Blue Raiders scored three runs in the top of the first to get an early 3-0 lead.
In the fourth and fifth innings, Middle Tennessee tacked on two runs each.
These four runs produced the final score, 7-0. Cheney picked up the win in the game, pitching a complete-game shutout and improving to 3-3 on the season.
MTSU went on to sweep its Saturday doubleheader, hanging on to an 8-7 victory over Liberty later in the day.
The first four innings went by without much excitement. Both teams went into the top of the fifth at a 1-1 tie, until the Blue Raiders offense racked up four runs.
The big hit came from junior Cheyenne Willis, clearing the bases with a double to left center to boost MTSU to a 5-1 lead.
The next inning brought more offensive fireworks from the Blue Raiders. Jenkins blasted a three-run homer, the first home run for MTSU this season, over the right field wall. Jenkins’ three-run blast put Middle Tennessee up 8-1, seemingly putting the game out of reach.
Liberty refused to go away though, tallying six runs on five hits and an error in the fifth inning to bring the score to 8-6 headed into the last inning.
Liberty added another run, but that was all they could muster as Middle Tennessee picked up the 8-7 victory.
Sophomore Megan Chocallo (2-0) earned the victory after a five-inning performance, allowing three runs, two earned, in the contest.
After getting a win earlier in the day, Cheney tallied her first save of the season, preserving the win for the Blue Raiders.
On Sunday, Middle Tennessee picked up a huge win over Louisville (5-5) in extra innings to finish the weekend with a 4-1 record, and move to 7-3 overall.
MTSU showed resiliency in battling back to get the game into extra innings. By the bottom of the fourth inning, the Blue Raiders were down 3-0 to the Cardinals.
However, the Blue Raiders came back to tie the game up in the inning. Birdsong scored Randi Cookus on an RBI double, followed by Jenkins’ two-RBI single with two outs, driving in Birdsong and Cortez to knot the game up at 3-3.
Jenkins came up big again for the Blue Raiders, driving in Freeman to give MTSU a 4-3 lead.
Senior Samantha Nieves gave the Blue Raiders a little more breathing room after driving in Jenkins to give Middle Tennessee a 5-3 advantage.
Senior Caitlin McClure shut the Cardinals down in the bottom of the inning, preserving the 5-3 win for Middle Tennessee.
MTSU finished the weekend on a four-game winning streak. For the tournament, the Blue Raiders outscored their opponents by a 25-12 margin.
Middle Tennessee will be back in action next weekend at the Ole Miss Red and Blue Classic in Oxford, Mississippi. Their first game will be Friday against Nebraska Omaha at 11:15 a.m.
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