Photo by Meagan White // Staff Photographer
Middle Tennessee (13-15, 2-7 C-USA) dropped its series-deciding game against Rice, 6-2, at Reese Smith Jr. Field Sunday afternoon, in a game that seemed identical to its previous two matchups this weekend.
In the three-game series against the Owls (17-10, 7-2 C-USA), the Blue Raider pitching staff was superb.
But on the offensive end, including Sunday’s loss, MTSU was only able to register 19 total hits, batting a team average of .200 percent (19-of-95) versus Rice in the series.
MTSU’s struggles at the plate became more apparent with men on base. Over the course of the series, the Blue Raiders left six on base Friday, nine on base Saturday night and nine on base Sunday.
“Hitting’s contagious,” MTSU head coach Jim McGuire said. “We need somebody to really jump start us. Riley Delgado got a couple hits today and he’s moving back in the right direction. But, we got to get the middle of our lineup going because it’s been really stagnant.”
Rice starting pitcher Ricardo Salinas (W, 4-1) settled in early, not allowing an MTSU hit until Will Schnure hit a shallow blooper to right field in the third inning.
Salinas threw 7.1 innings, giving up six hits, one run (earned), three walks and eight strikeouts.
MTSU starting pitcher Jake Wyrick (L, 2-3) recorded 5.2 innings, allowing three earned runs with six strikeouts and three walks.
Wyrick came out of the gate hot, striking out three of the first four batters he faced.
Wyrick kept Rice’s offense at bay, but costly errors in the third inning allowed the Owls to get on the board first.
MTSU second baseman Austin Dennis committed an error on a routine ground ball, which helped push Rice to an early 2-0 lead in the third inning after an ensuing sacrifice fly by the Owls.
Rice’s offense exploded in the sixth inning, scoring three more runs to, seemingly, put the game out of reach.
Blue Raider shortstop Riley Delgado began the comeback attempt with a lead off double in the sixth inning, his team-high seventh double of the season. Austin Dennis’ single to center field punched in Delgado moments later to end any possible shutout.
After a Brad Jarreau walk and Austin Aucker single, the bases were loaded. MTSU was unable to convert with no outs, as the Blue Raider’s struck out twice and had a grounder force out at home.
Rice added one more run in the top of the seventh inning to push the game out of MTSU’s reach.
Now tied for last place in the conference, the Blue Raiders are searching for a consistent bat headed into a non-conference game against Austin Peay.
The Blue Raiders will have one home game against in-state foe Austin Peay (15-10) Tuesday night at 6 p.m. CT before heading on the road for four straight games.
To contact Sports Editor Connor Grott, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.