Photo by Brent Beerends / MT Athletic Communications
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders(20-25, 7-15) ninth inning magic set along with the southeast Texas sun as they fell just short of completing a rally against the UT-San Antonio Roadrunners (23-21, 8-11) who hung on by a score of 3-2, handing the Raiders their seventh straight conference loss.
This series is pivotal for both teams’ Conference USA tournament hopes, as they are both sitting on the cusp of elimination. UTSA is in seventh place, while MTSU is in ninth and on the outside looking in since the top eight teams in the conference advance to the tournament.
MTSU needed a big start tonight from AJ Spencer and he gave them just that, as the Raiders were only down by two when he exited the game after the fifth inning.
Right-handed reliever Will Small came into the ballgame in the sixth inning and kept the Roadrunner bats silent and the deficit at two runs.
The Raiders were led offensively by second baseman Ryan Kemp, who went 2-for-4 with a single and a home run in the ninth inning that brought the Raiders to within one run. Kemp’s season average now sits at .355 and he drove in his 19th run of the year on his seventh homer.
Raiders ninth inning comeback falls just short
MTSU entered the ninth inning down 3-1 and got a huge boost to start the inning.
Kemp smacked a lead-off home run to left field that brought the Raiders to within one, leaving them with three chances to tie the game.
With one out, sophomore outfielder Austin Dennis reached base and advanced to second as the tying run on a throwing error by UTSA catcher Tony Beam.
MT was unable to capitalize though, as they stranded Dennis on second base to end the ballgame.
Pitching Staff keeps Raiders in the hunt
The Blue Raider pitching staff delivered on a night when they desperately needed it.
Sophomore right-hander AJ Spencer took the ball to start the game for Middle Tennessee and he tossed five innings of three-run ball to give the team a chance to come back. In the process, he worked his way out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth inning that kept the game tied at one in the fourth.
Coach Jim McGuire turned to arguably his most reliable arm this season out of the bullpen in Small in the sixth. Small held the Roadrunner lead at two runs as he delivered three innings of no run, one-hit ball.
Small continues to lead the Blue Raiders in wins this year with four and has provided them a steady, reliable option to turn to when the game is on the line.
MTSU fell by one run tonight in San Antonio. Final Box from the 3-2 loss. pic.twitter.com/LL2MjumSMl
— Anthony Fiorella (@A_Fiorella74) May 6, 2017
The Raiders will finish up the series with the Roadrunners on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m., and Sunday’s game is set for a noon start.