By Rickey Fuquay, Jr.//Contributing Writer
MURFREESBORO – Looking to rebound from this past weekend’s woes at FAU, Middle Tennessee’s softball team (12-14) earned a split of its home doubleheader with UT Martin Wednesday.
The Blue Raiders dropped the first game, 7-2. They rebounded with a 6-2 victory in the nightcap.
The Blue Raiders have struggled on offense lately, and these struggles persisted in the first game of the doubleheader, as they recorded just six hits and two runs.
Senior left fielder Alma Cortez, senior third baseman Samantha Nieves and sophomore first baseman Lauren Riddell each had one hit in two at-bats.
Cortez knocked her team-leading second home run of the year, a solo shot in the fourth inning. She added a sacrifice-fly RBI in the fifth, accounting for both of MTSU’s runs in the game. Junior shortstop Randi Cookus, sophomore second baseman Austyn Whaley and junior right fielder Kiarra Freeman each went 1-for-3.
The Skyhawks (14-14) struck first as they broke through with three runs in the first inning to take an early 3-0 lead.
The deficit increased as they tacked on another run in the fourth. However, the Blue Raiders finally cracked the scoreboard with Cortez’s solo blast in the bottom of the inning, cutting the lead to 4-1.
UT Martin struck back with its second three-run outburst in the fifth to double its lead to six, 7-1. MTSU added its second run of the game in the bottom of the inning off a Cortez sacrifice fly that scored freshman center fielder Cor”Nisha Birdsong. It was all the offense MTSU could muster though, dropping the first game 7-2.
Senior starting pitcher Kelci Cheney fell to 6-9 on the year, recording her fourth-straight loss in the circle. She allowed three runs on six hits in a brief one and one-thirds innings.
Senior pitcher Caitlin McClure came in from the bullpen and allowed four runs on six hits in five and two-thirds innings of relief.
Elizabeth Weigand improved to 7-5 on the year with a complete game, allowing two runs on six hits.
MTSU had to look to the nightcap to salvage a split in the doubleheader.
MTSU’s offense got things together in the second game, scoring six runs – more than its four previous games combined – en route to a 6-2 victory.
Sophomore right fielder Marinna Shadley went a perfect 2-for-2 at the plate in the nightcap. Nieves racked up two RBI on 2-for-3 effort.
Riddell and junior first baseman Carlie Jenkins both went 1-for-3 on the night recording three RBI combined. Birdsong also went 1-for-3 for the night. Whaley went 1-for-2 with a RBI.
The Skyhawks wasted no time getting on the board again in this one, as they took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The Blue Raiders responded in the bottom of the first with a two-run single by Riddell to take a 2-1 lead.
UT Martin tied the game at two in the second inning, but the tied did not last long.
MTSU untied the game with three runs in the home half of the third inning, capping off the scoring with back-to-back doubles by Nieves and Whaley to take a 5-2 lead.
The Blue Raiders extended the margin thanks to a RBI single by Jenkins to make it a 6-2 advantage in the sixth. The Skyhawks were unable to put together a rally in the seventh, as the Blue Raiders won 6-2.
Cheney came on in relief to pick up the win, improving to 7-9 on the year. She allowed zero runs on two hits in four and two-thirds innings. Sophomore pitcher Megan Chocallo got the start on the mound and finished with a no-decision, allowing two runs on four hits in two and one-thirds innings.
Kenzi Tate fell to 2-4 on the year for UT Martin. She allowed five runs on six hits in two and two-thirds innings.
Middle Tennessee will look to turn its fortunes around in Conference USA play this weekend. MTSU sports a 1-8 record in conference play so far this season. MTSU hosts a doubleheader against Texas-San Antonio Saturday. First pitch for the first game is at 2 p.m. CST.
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