Photo by Darius Horton / MTSU Sidelines
On a beautiful Friday afternoon, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (4-1) geared up to play the Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson University in the first game of the Mule Mix Classic. The Raiders continued their strong start in the young season by defeating the Knights by a final score of 11-6.
Offense finds success behind Woodard, Christian
The Raiders were shut out this past Tuesday against the Alabama Crimson Tide, showing that some offensive adjustments were needed if the team hoped to bounce back.
The team was clearly back on track this game, as they put up 11 runs to capture the win. Junior LA Woodard and freshman Myles Christian hit back-to-back triples at the bottom of the second inning to tie the score at 3. They ignited the Raider’s offense and they were dominant through the rest of the game.
“Some guys really worked hard on trying to hit the ball the other way,” said Head Coach Jim McGuire. “I think our pitch selection was better today than it was on Tuesday, and we were able to capitalize on the walks and errors to get good base position.”
Pitching struggles continue early
In his second start of the season, senior Jake Wyrick gave up three runs in the top of the first to give the Knights the early lead.
FDU scored two more runs off him and one more run on his replacement junior A.J. Spencer.
The back half of the pitching rotation was where the Raiders found their groove and shut the Knights down. Junior Conner Bell retired the only batter he faced, while juniors Blake Stansberry and Drew Huff split the rest of the pitching duties to close out the game. Huff ended the game with a flurry, striking out the final three batters of the game.
“That was Blake’s first time coming into a game in a while, he’s been dealing with some soreness and injuries,” McGuire said. “It was good to see him do what he did against all those right-handed pitchers, and I think he will start (being) more of a factor. For Drew, we want to get him adjusted to pitching at least twice a weekend. He’s a big piece we will get figured out.”
Base stealing plays a major role
A crucial factor in this game was the Raiders’ ability to steal bases to gain a better scoring advantage.
Both Christian and Woodard were contributors in this area on Friday, as Woodard stole three more bases to run his total to six on the season. This ability requires not only top-level speed that both players possess, but also a keen sense of awareness to be successful. Both players found themselves in prime scoring position because of this attribute and contributed a great deal to the team’s win.
“We usually try to get (on base) within the first three pitches,” Woodard said. “(We want) to watch the catcher to get his tendencies.”
The Raiders are currently hold an undefeated mark (4-0) at home and will look to continue that on Saturday against the Indiana State Sycamores. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.
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