By Rickey Fuquay, Jr.//Contributing Writer
EL PASO, Texas – Middle Tennessee (9-8, 0-3 C-USA) suffered a three-game sweep in their C-USA opener to Texas-El Paso (6-19, 3-0 C-USA) this weekend at Helen of Troy Softball Field.
The Blue Raiders fell in the first game 7-0, lost the second game 7-4 and were mercy ruled in the third game 12-2 in five innings.
The Blue Raiders could not get anything going on offense as they managed just four hits in the contest en route to their first shutout loss of the season.
Sophomore infielder Samantha Nieves led the way on offense for the Blue Raiders with two hits in three at-bats. Senior left fielder Alma Cortez and sophomore infielder Austyn Whaley were also in the hit column for MTSU.
The Miners got on the board first, putting up six runs on six hits to take a 6-0 advantage heading to the top of the second inning. They eventually tacked on one more run in the second inning to increase their lead to 7-0 heading to the top of the third inning.
Sophomore pitcher Megan Chocallo fell to 2-2 this season after getting the nod on the mound, allowing six runs on six hits in zero and one-thirds inning of work.
Senior Caitlin McClure came in from the bullpen and allowed only one run, one walk and three hits along with three strikeouts in five and two-thirds inning of work.
Sophomore pitcher Kaitlin Fifield got the win on the mound for the Miners with a complete game, allowing just four hits, walking three and tallying eight strikeouts.
The Blue Raider offense got it together in the second game of the series and outhit UTEP 12-8 despite the loss.
Freshman center fielder Cor’Nisha Birdsong and Nieves each recorded an RBI with a pair of hits, while junior infielders Megan Griffith and Carlie Jenkins both went 2-of-4 for the night.
Sophomore first baseman Lauren Riddell, Whaley, freshman catcher Morgan Harris and junior right fielder Kiarra Freeman. were also in the hit column for the Blue Raiders. Riddell went 1-of-4 with a RBI, while Whaley went 1-of-3 with a RBI. Harris and Freeman both went 1-of-3 for the night.
The Blue Raiders struck first in their first at-bat thanks to a RBI single by Nieves. However, the Miners put on a clinic on offense and exploded for six-straight runs that were capped off by home runs by junior shortstop Kawehiokalani Netane and senior right fielder Ashley Eldridge to take a 6-1 advantage heading to the top of the sixth inning.
MTSU answered with three runs of their own in the top of the sixth inning, but that is as close as they would get as the Miners would tack on another in the bottom of the sixth inning and record the final out in the top of seventh inning for a 7-4 victory over the Blue Raiders.
Senior pitcher Kelci Cheney fell to 5-5 on the year. She allowed seven runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out two in six innings.
Junior pitcher Danielle Pearson got the win on the mound for the Miners, allowing four runs on 11 hits, walking one and striking out two in six innings of work. Fifield got the save, allowing just zero runs on one hit in one inning of work.
The Blue Raider offense once again put up a good effort on the field, but it was not enough to avoid the three-game sweep.
Birdsong and Harris each led the way on offense. Birdsong went 2-of-3 while Harris went 2-of-3 with a RBI. Riddell, who went 1-of-2, and Whaley, who went 1-of-3, were also in the hit column for MTSU.
Once again, the Blue Raiders drew first blood thanks to a RBI groundout by Jenkins. However, the Miners offense busted the game wide open with a seven-run outburst that was capped off by home runs by Eldridge and sophomore infielder Kiki Pepi to take a 7-1 lead heading to the top of the third inning.
MTSU added another run thanks to a RBI double by Harris, but UTEP’s offense struck again with a five-run outburst that was capped off by a home run by freshman catcher Kaitlyn Ryder to take a 10-run advantage heading to the top of the fifth inning.
The Blue Raiders eventually tallied one hit in the top of the fifth inning. However, they could not produce anymore offense, resulting in the eight-run mercy rule.
McClure fell to 2-1 this season. She allowed five runs on two hits and two walks in zero and two-thirds innings of work.
Cheney came in from the bullpen and allowed seven runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out two in three innings. Chocallo also came in from the bullpen and allowed zero runs on one hit along with one strikeout in zero and one-thirds inning.
Fifield notched her second win of the series for the Miners, allowing zero runs, four hits, one walk and two strikeouts in two and two-thirds innings of work.
The Blue Raiders look to bounce back when they step out of conference play and travel to Las Cruces, N.M. to face off against New Mexico State on Tuesday. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. CST.
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