Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sports Editor
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (9-14, 1-5) fell in the final game in their first Conference series against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (9-16, 3-3) this afternoon by a score of 4-2 at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
The Hilltoppers quickly jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, but the Raiders fought back and were able to tack on another run of their own to tie it up.
After the first inning, both starting pitcher’s took over the game. Western Kentucky’s Evan Acosta tossed 7.2 innings, gave up two runs and stranded seven Blue Raiders on base to pick up the win for the Hilltoppers.
MTSU’s Cody Puckett quickly cruised through the first six innings of today’s contest as he gave up only one earned run while striking out ten.
The Hilltoppers loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning when Tyler Robertson laid down a bunt that trickled straight to Puckett on the mound. Puckett’s throw pulled first baseman Kaleb King off the bag, and on the next at-bat, Thomas Peter singled to left to drive in two runs. Middle Tennessee catcher Aaron Antonini’s throw to third sailed back into left field and allowed the third Hilltopper to score.
Devin Conn delivered two innings of no-hit ball, but the Blue Raiders were unable to capitalize offensively.
Coach McGuire seems to have found some position players he can plug into the game in relief, despite the series loss.
“[Austin Dennis, Drew Huff, and Devin Conn] are three guys that I think we can count on. We’re trying to figure out who we can count on in tough situations,” McGuire said after the game. ” We want to know who is going to compete and throw strikes, and I think all three of those guys have done that.”
Cody Puckett has career day
MTSU sent left-hander Cody Puckett to the mound today. The Sunday afternoon start was the first of his career with the Blue Raiders, and he set a career-high in strikeouts with ten.
Puckett cruised his way through the first six innings, and was able to stop the bleeding after a three-run seventh inning by the Hilltoppers.
Puckett turned in a much-needed good start for MT by going seven innings and giving up four runs, although three of them were unearned.
The lefty stranded a total of six Hilltoppers on base, including three in the second inning when he left the bases loaded.
The southpaw was able to end four innings with a strikeout, including his final one in the seventh to strand the bases loaded and keep the deficit at two.
Puckett “felt good,” both coming into and during today’s game.
“I had all four of my pitches working and I was able to get ahead of batters,” Puckett said.
Puckett used a lot of off speed pitches to keep the Hilltopper batters off balance.
“My splitter hasn’t been there all season, and I threw that 20 or 30 times today even though I don’t use it that much and that helped really keep [the right handed hitters] off balance,” Puckett said. “My curveball worked well, and my slider was a good strikeout pitch for me today.”
Delgado caps off huge series
Riley Delgado was one of the more productive players in the series for the Raiders. Delgado finished the day 2-for-4, scoring the Raiders’ first run of the day in the first inning off of an Austin Dennis single that tied the game.
Delgado finished the series going 9-for-14 with a total of two RBI’s, a run scored and two extra base hits.
The shortstop tried his best to hit good pitches all weekend, and it paid off.
“I really focused on seeing the ball [up in the strikezone] and tried not to do to much and [my hits] were falling good this weekend,” Delgado said.
Delgado got on base 67 percent of the time in this series, which helped give the Raiders chances to win the last two ballgames.
Western Takes it 4-2 and takes the series two games to one. MT will play at Belmont Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/wjvQJuIV33
— Anthony Fiorella (@A_Fiorella74) March 26, 2017
The Raiders will have a couple non-conference weekday match-ups on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, MTSU will travel to Nashville to take on the Belmont Bruins at 4 p.m. and on Wednesday, the Raiders return home to face the Austin Peay Governors at 6 p.m.
Over the weekend, the Blue Raiders will travel to Huntington, West Virginia to take on the Marshall Thundering Herd. Friday and Saturday’s games are scheduled for a 5 p.m. start, and Sunday’s is scheduled to start at noon.