Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
After a wild game that saw multiple ties and lead changes, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders and Western Kentucky Hilltoppers were postponed in the tenth inning due to lightning and rain.
The Blue Raiders found themselves down early after a throwing error by starting pitcher Tyler Hasper but that was one of the only negative plays associated with the junior right-hander. Although he gave up three runs (two earned), he kept the Blue Raiders in the game by holding the Hilltopper offense in check.
His solid start allowed the Blue Raider offense to get going and by the time Hasper left the game, MT held a 4-3 lead thanks in part to a strong showing from Drew Huff and Kaleb King.
Middle Tennessee turned to reliever Tyler Holcombe in the sixth inning, hoping he could continue where Hasper left off. The usually reliable Holcombe struggled mightily, giving up three big runs in the ninth inning to put MTSU in a 9-6 hole with three outs remaining.
The Blue Raiders didn’t quit and before WKU could record an out, MT tied the game at nine and had runners in scoring position.
Senior outfielder Brad Jarreau found himself up with the bases loaded and one out when he popped up in foul territory down the first-base line. Devin Conn tagged up at third and although it was a close play, WKU got the out at home and sent the game to extra innings.
After starting the game in right field, sophomore Austin Dennis relieved Holcombe and struggled to start the tenth. After loading the bases with two outs, Dennis fell behind WKU first baseman Nathan Methvin 3-0 before rallying and striking him out to end the threat.
Then the rains came. A lightning delay caused a stoppage of play after the Dennis grounded out to start the bottom of the tenth.
Huff and King lead the Blue Raider charge
With the Blue Raiders down early, sophomore Drew Huff led off the bottom of the second with a double to the right-centerfield gap. Two batters later, senior Kaleb King drilled a two-run double to give the Blue Raiders a brief 2-1 lead.
In the fourth inning with MT trailing 4-2, Huff blasted a solo home run to cut the deficit in half and jump-start the Raider offense.
The two also came through when the team needed them most. Down 9-6 in the bottom of the ninth, Huff singled to put two runners on base with no one out. King followed a couple batters later and ripped a game-tying two-run double into the left-centerfield gap, bringing the MT fans to their feet.
The two are a big part of the offense and for the team to be successful, they have to continue this hot run throughout the season.
Hasper solid in fourth start
After having shoulder issues earlier in the year, Hasper has given the Blue Raiders a steady presence when he takes the mound. A day after fellow starter Jake Wyrick struggled against the Hilltoppers, Hasper provided Middle Tennessee with five solid innings of five-hit, three-run ball with five strikeouts.
Hasper kept his Earned Run Average at a solid 3.57, a number that can improve throughout the year.
The teams will finish the game at noon on Sunday, followed by a 30 minute break before the final game of the series.