Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
Story by Darius Horton / Contributing Writer
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (17-17, 5-8) fought back after falling behind 9-1 early to win an exciting game over the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (16-18, 5-8) at Reese Smith Jr. Field.
Left-hander Jake Wyrick got the start on the mound for the Blue Raiders and after a solid first inning, he was gashed for four runs in the top of the second.
After Middle got one of the runs back on an RBI fielder’s choice from third baseman Drew Huff, reliever Reid Clements gave the Blazers five more runs, leaving the Blue Raiders in a 9-1 hole.
The Blue Raiders began their comeback attempt in the bottom of the fourth when designated hitter Aaron Aucker led off the inning with his second double of the game. Huff drove him in with a singe to make the score 9-2 in favor of UAB. Leftfielder Blake Benefield followed with an RBI single of his own and shortstop Riley Delgado capped the scoring for the inning with a two-run single to cut the deficit to 9-5.
After a great relief performance from Tanner McDivitt, the Blue Raiders finally brought themselves back, scoring five runs in the bottom to the seventh inning to tie the game at ten.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Blue Raiders continued their hot streak as Austin Dennis singled into left field to lead off the inning. Kaleb King followed with a perfectly placed bunt down the first base line and after a bad throw to second, MT had two one with no outs for Huff with the game on the line.
Huff sent the Blue Raider faithful home happy with a single up the middle to drive in Dennis with the game-winning run, bringing the final score to 11-10 in favor of the Blue Raiders.
⚡️ and awe.
— Conference USA (@Conference_USA) April 14, 2017
When asked about the environment, the answer was pretty simple for McDivitt.
“That’s what baseball is all about…it was a whole lot of fun,” the junior reliever said after the game.
Wyrick struggles in short outing
Jake Wyrick got the start for today’s game and struggled in the early stages. He pitched two innings and allowed four runs on five hits. This put the Blue Raiders down 4-1 in the 2nd inning, mainly due to his command struggles.
“Jake Wyrick didn’t have a very good start for us. He got us in trouble, left the ball up way too much,” Head coach Jim McGuire said. “He’s having a hard time controlling the running game and having a hard time keeping the ball down in the strike zone.”
Wyrick left the game in the third inning as Reid Clements entered and gave up five runs of his own to put the Blue Raiders in a deeper hole, down 9-1 in the third inning.
McDivitt becomes savior for pitching woes
In the top of the fourth inning, Tanner McDivitt stepped to the mound for the Blue Raiders. He gave MT a big lift when they needed it, pitching four innings of one-run ball. This gave the Blue Raiders a chance to comeback and they did, producing four runs in the bottom of the fourth and five in the bottom of the seventh.
Having his teammates behind him gave McDivitt more confidence, something that played a big part in his performance tonight.
“Everybody’s excited, they know that I can come in and do it,” McDivitt said. “Everybody gets behind me and they get excited when I do well…It’s nice to have that support.”
Final MTSU Stats
— Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13) April 14, 2017
The Blue Raiders will be back on the diamond on Friday night for game two against the Blazers; first pitch is set for 6 p.m.