By Jim Bratton//Contributing Writer
CHARLESTON, W. Va.- The Conference-USA leading Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders took their 14-4 conference record to West Virginia on Friday to begin a three-game series against the Marshall Thundering Herd.
However, the end result was not what MTSU had hoped for as the Blue Raiders dropped Friday’s contest, 3-1, at Appalachian Power Park. MTSU is now tied with Florida Atlantic at the top of the C-USA standings.
The Blue Raiders’ (23-18, 14-5 C-USA) offense struggled early, going 1-2-3 to start the first inning against Thundering Herd starter Chase Boster. Marshall (14-26, 7-12 C-USA) was able to take advantage early, however, when center fielder Corey Bird singled off of Blue Raider starter Johnathan Frebis to score Robert Fajardo in the bottom of the third.
MTSU found its offense to start the sixth inning. Designated hitter Kaleb King doubled to left field, and eventually scored on a sac fly from right fielder Brad Jarreau.
Marshall countered by tacking on another run in the bottom of the inning. DJ Gee doubled down the right field line, and eventually advanced to third on a wild pitch. Aaron Bossi then singled into right field, which scored Gee, putting the Thundering Herd ahead 2-1.
Blue Raider freshman Blake Stansberry came on in the sixth to relieve Frebis. After a steal and a walk, the bases were loaded, but MTSU got out of the jam when Bossi was caught trying to steal home.
MTSU failed to get any offense going in the last three innings, managing just one hit over the last three frames. Marshall tacked on an insurance run in the eighth when an errant throw by shortstop Austin Bryant allowed Bossi to score. The lead would hold up for the Thundering Herd as they would win the game, 3-1.
The Blue Raiders knocked just three hits in the game. King, Kevin Dupree and Will Schnure accounted for those hits.
Marshall finished the game with eight hits. Bird (2-for-4, RBI) and Bossi (2-for-3, RBI) notched multi-hit games for the Thundering Herd. TJ Diffenderfer, a Mount Juliet native and former teammate of Ronnie Jebavy and Dustin Delgado at Columbia State Community College, managed a 1-for-2 effort.
Despite taking the loss, Frebis (4-5) had a good outing for MTSU on the mound. The senior struck out seven batters and allowed two runs in 5.2 innings on Friday. He struggled with control though, walking three and throwing three wild pitches.
The Blue Raiders will look to rebound on Saturday in the second game of the series. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. CST. Nathan Hoffmann will get the start for MTSU, and JD Hammer will get the nod on the mound for Marshall.
For more Blue Raiders 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 email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.