MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee (15-10, 7-1 C-USA) used strong offense in the first inning to take the lead, and used strong defense to maintain that lead, taking their second-straight game over Old Dominion (13-10, 3-5 C-USA), 8-2, Saturday.
The Blue Raiders took both games to start the weekend series, earning the series victory, and will look for the sweep heading into Sunday’s closer.
The Blue Raiders started Saturday’s game much like Friday’s, falling behind in the top of the first, as starting pitcher Nate Hoffmann got into trouble early. Hoffmann, 1-1 on the year coming in to Saturday, gave up an RBI single with two outs in the top of the first to Connor Myers, putting the Monarchs up 1-0.
Hoffmann settled down throughout the rest of his night, going six innings, giving up just that one earned run on five hits, and struck out one batter.
“For me, it was just about finding a way, a way to be good, even when you’re bad,” Hoffmann spoke after the win. “That was the story of today, and when you can do that you can compete, and keep your team in ballgames.”
MTSU did not waste time, much like Friday’s contest, coming up in the bottom of the first and putting three runs on the board. The bottom of the inning took shape as two of the first three batters for the Blue Raiders earned hits, putting runners in scoring position, and setting the team up for the rest of the inning.
The first Blue Raider run came on the first real miscue of the night by Monarch starter Nick Hartman, who hit Michael Adkins with the bases loaded, walking in the tying run. Jake Ingold followed that up by singling to right field, scoring Ronnie Jebavy and Jared Allen, and putting MTSU up 3-1.
MTSU did not look back at that point, and leaned on the settled Hoffmann and the defense, holding the Monarchs to just two runs in the game.
MTSU added insurance in the sixth and seventh innings, and were led by the consistent offense of Jebavy. Jebavy came into the game with a team-high 37 hits, and was looking to get off to another good start Saturday.
Jebavy finished the day 3-of-4, his third three-hit game of the season, tying his career high. Jebavy also stole second base in the sixth inning, his 14th steal of the year on just his 15th attempt.
“Any time I get on base, I try to make something happen,” Jebavy spoke after the game. “We come out and played our best during conference. There’s no excuse to come out in the midweek and not play well, but if we can play well in conference, I think we’ll do alright.”
The Blue Raiders, coming into the weekend series, had lost tough home contests in the midweek to Vanderbilt (12-7 on Tuesday) and Lipscomb (8-1 on Wednesday).
Blake Stansberry, a reliever who has shown promise for the Blue Raiders so far this season, performed well in the latter stages of the game. Stansberry came in for relief of Benji Cash, who went out with an apparent throwing arm injury, and recorded the final eight outs for the Blue Raiders. Stansberry finished his day throwing 2.2 innings, giving up just one hit, one earned run and recording two strikeouts.
“He (Stansberry) really performed well,” Coach Jim McGuire spoke of the pitcher after the win. “We had to bring him in in a tough situation against a tough left handed hitter, one of the best I think in the league, and was able to get the out. Our confidence is there with him, he’s just gotta keep going out there. It’s great for his confidence, and it’s good for our confidence as a coaching staff to keep putting him out there and see him get it done.”
The Blue Raiders close out the weekend series against Old Dominion on Sunday, as they go for the sweep. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. CST at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
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