MURFREESBORO – Middle Tennessee’s softball team (11-10, 1-5 C-USA) splits its doubleheader with Florida International (18-11, 3-3 C-USA) Sunday, winning the first game 7-6, and dropping the series finale 8-4.
The win in the first game was MTSU’s 11th of the season, giving them more wins this season than they had all of last season. This is also the most wins for the program since it won 16 games in 2012.
MTSU hit four home runs on the day, which was more than they had hit combined all season.
The Blue Raiders dug themselves quite a hole in the first game. The Panthers lit up the scoreboard in the top of the second inning with six runs on four hits.
The big blow in the inning came off the bat of Stephanie Texeira. She blasted a three-run homer to center field that put FIU up 6-0, ending MTSU starter Kelci Cheney’s day after just two innings.
Not to be outdone, the Blue Raiders struck back with a huge inning of their own. In the home half of the fourth inning, MTSU plated seven runs to take the lead.
Freshman Morgan Harris finished the comeback in the inning with a grand slam that pushed the Blue Raiders ahead for good, 7-6. It was her first-career home run for MTSU. She went 1-for-3 in the game.
The Blue Raiders were outhit in the game 6-4, and they committed three errors.
Freshman Cor’Nisha Birdsong and Junior Carlie Jenkins went 1-for-2 in the contest. Jenkins picked up an RBI on a double in the decisive fourth inning. Senior Samantha Nieves managed a 1-for-3 effort, recording an RBI on a single in the fourth.
Stephanie Texeira and Ashley Belans were the main contributors for the Panthers. Texeira went 1-for-1 with three RBI, while Belans recorded two RBI on a 1-for-3 outing.
After taking the loss in Saturday’s late-night affair, Cheney (6-6), a freshman, took the mound again for the Blue Raiders in the first game. The 5-10 right-hander lasted only two innings though, allowing sic runs (only two were earned) on five hits. She earned a no decision once MTSU made its comeback.
Senior Caitlin McClure relieved Cheney after the second. McClure dominated the Panthers, allowing only one hit in five innings of shutout softball. She picked up her third win of the season, tying her win total from last season.
Shelby Graves (4-5) suffered the loss for FIU. She pitched three and one-thirds innings, giving up seven runs on just three hits. Graves walked three runners, all in the fourth inning, and all three scored.
It was MTSU’s first conference win of the season. The Blue Raiders went for the sweep in the second game.
The Panthers struck first blood again in this one. They plated a run in the top of the first when Gabby Spallone reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing Rebekah Sanchez to score.
The Blue Raiders answered with home runs in the second, third and fourth innings to put them ahead 4-1. Sophomore Lauren Riddell blasted a solo homer to left to tie the game in the second. It was her first homer as a Blue Raider.
Senior Alma Cortez knocked a two-run shot, her first-career homer for MTSU, to right field that gave the Blue Raiders a 3-1 lead. Sophomore Austyn Whaley completed the scoring for MTSU in the game, smashing a solo homer (her first of the season) to left field, extending the Blue Raider lead to 4-1. This marked the first time that MTSU had hit three home runs in a game since Mar. 29, 2013 against Louisiana-Monroe.
FIU chipped away at the lead though. The Panthers answered with two runs in the fifth inning on back-to-back sacrifice fly’s by Texeira and Spallone. This trimmed the deficit to one at 4-3.
The Panthers took the lead for good in the sixth. They scored three runs in the inning. Sanchez plated a run on an RBI single, and then Ashley Leon knocked a two-run double to right center to give FIU the 6-4 lead.
FIU tacked on two more runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach. Dominique Grossman hit a triple that scored Jessica Hallett. Grossman scored on the play after a throwing error by Whaley, who committed two in the game. This resulted in the 8-4 FIU win.
MTSU was outhit again in this one, 8-5. Just like the first game, MTSU committed three errors in the second one, totaling six errors on the day.
Birdsong was the only Blue Raider with a multi-hit game. She went 2-for-3 in the game, and 3-for-5 in the doubleheader. Cortez and Riddell both went 1-for-2. Cortez had tow RBI, while Riddell had one. Whaley went 1-for-3 in the game with an RBI.
The Panthers had two players with multi-RBI games. Leon produced a 1-for-2 game, tallying two RBI. Spallone (0-for-3) failed to record a hit, but she had two RBI. Sanchez was perfect at the plate in this one, going 3-for-3 with one RBI and three runs.
After a strong relief effort in the first game, McClure (3-2) did not fare as well during her start in the series finale. She pitched five and two-thirds innings, but she allowed six runs on six hits, and walked three. Sophomore Megan Chocallo relieved McClure, surrendering two runs on two hits in one and one-thirds innings.
Corinne Jenkins (11-6), who earned the win last night, threw a complete game for the Panthers as she earned her second victory in as many days. Jenkins gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits in seven innings of work.
The loss caused the Blue Raiders to drop the series to FIU. MTSU is off to a rough 1-5 start in conference play.
MTSU will leave for conference play for a doubleheader on Wednesday against in-state rival Austin Peay in Clarksville. The Blue Raiders defeated APSU 8-5 at the Mississippi State Invitational earlier this season. First pitch for the first game is scheduled for 1 p.m. CST.
For more Blue Raider sports, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.
To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.