CLEARWATER, Fla. – Middle Tennessee’s softball team (9-5) went 2-2 this weekend in the USF Under Armour Invite, losing both of their games Friday, and sweeping a doubleheader Sunday.
The Blue Raiders came into the weekend riding a four-game winning streak, and having won seven of their last eight. On Friday, they attempted to extend their winning streak against Maine and Radford.
MTSU started the weekend playing Maine.
After a pair of scoreless innings, the Blue Raiders put a pair on the board first, scoring two runs in the third inning. Senior Alma Cortez doubled to left field, scoring Randi Cookus. Freshman Cor’Nisha Birdsong followed her with a single of her own, scoring Cortez and putting the Blue Raiders up 2-0.
Over the next two innings, Maine would tie the game up with an RBI single in the fourth from Maddie Moore. In the fifth inning, Maine’s Jessica Burke reached on an error, scoring Erika Leonard and tying the game at 2 apiece.
For Maine in the bottom of the sixth, Erika Leonard cleared the bases with a single up the middle, putting the Black Bears up for good, 5-2. The Blue Raiders failed to score in the top of the seventh, falling by that score, 5-2.
The loss was junior Kelci Cheney’s fourth of the season. Cheney pitched six innings, giving up five runs on eight hits, but just two of those runs were earned.
Alexis Bogdanovic picked up the win for the Black Bears, her second of the year. Bogdanovic went seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits.
Looking to rebound from a loss earlier in the day, the Blue Raiders faced off against Radford to close out Friday. Megan Chocallo took the mound in the second game of the invitational.
The Blue Raiders would once again put the first run on the board in the game, this time scoring in the top of the first. Junior Carlie Jenkins singled up the middle off Highlanders pitcher Abby Morrow, scoring Birdsong, and putting the Blue Raiders up 1-0.
The Highlanders refused to stay behind long, putting a pair of runs on the board in the bottom of the first. Casey Burns hit a two-run home run to left center field, putting Radford up 2-1 over MTSU.
The Highlanders added another pair of runs in the third, stretching their lead to 4-1 over the Blue Raiders. MTSU scored one run in the top of the seventh, in an attempt to come back, but they ultimately fell short, losing 4-2.
Chocallo pitched six innings in the loss, her second of the year, giving up four runs on nine hits.
Morrow picked up the win for Radford, pitching seven innings, and giving up just two runs on seven hits.
Saturday’s scheduled games for the Blue Raiders against Oakland and Rhode Island were cancelled due to weather. Sunday’s contests would be against Oakland, instead of Eastern Carolina, and Sacred Heart to finish the invitational.
After losing their first two contests in Clearwater, MTSU was looking to rebound on their final day of competition, and pick up a pair of wins.
Facing off against Oakland Sunday morning, Caitlin Mcclure took the mound for the Blue Raiders.
Jenkins once again provided the spark early on for MTSU, earning her first RBI Sunday on a groundout that scored Birdsong and put the Blue Raiders up 1-0.
Julia Morales added the first pair of runs for Oakland in the bottom of the first with a home run to right center off Chaney. Morales picked up a pair of RBI, scoring Sarah Hartley on the play.
MTSU tied it up in the fourth thanks to a solo home run to right center by junior Cheyenne Willis.
Oakland added three more runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead once again, taking the lead going into the fifth, 5-2.
Middle Tennessee found their groove offensively in the fifth and sixth innings Sunday morning. The Blue Raiders added a pair of runs in the fifth, and another pair in the sixth, taking the lead 6-5.
Trying to earn her fourth win of the season in relief, Cheney could not close the door in the seventh. Oakland’s TJ Bindus singled to left, scoring Marina Salinas and tying the game 6-6.
The Blue Raiders stayed hot in the top of the eighth, scoring three runs off a pair of singles by Kiarra Freeman and Birdsong. MTSU did not relinquish the lead this time, slamming the door in the bottom of the eighth.
The win was Cheney’s fourth of the year. Cheney earned the victory in two innings of relief, only giving up one hit and one unearned run.
In the final game of the invite, the Blue Raiders squared off against Sacred Heart, a team coming into the game with a 1-7 record overall.
Cheney earned the start for the Blue Raiders against Sacred Heart after her clinching performance against Oakland.
It was a tight contest through the first four innings, with neither starter wanting to blink first.
In the top of the fifth, MTSU finally found a chink in the armor, scoring three runs off Sacred Heart pitcher Jamie Carlson. Jenkins earned three RBI off her double to left field, clearing the bases in the process.
Sacred Heart put forth their best effort in the seventh inning, down 3-0 with three outs left. Pitching in relief, Chocallo gave up a double to Sacred Hart’s Kate Nadler, and a walk to Kelyn Filmore, trimming the lead to 3-2.
Caitlin Mcclure entered the game, trying to record the final two outs, and secure the win for the Blue Raiders. Mcclure struck out both batters she faced, picking up her first save of the season.
The Blue Raiders finished the weekend 2-2, and pushed their overall record to 9-5.
Middle Tennessee’s next game will be their home opener on Wednesday against Tennessee State. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. CST.
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