Photo by Darius Horton / MTSU Sidelines
The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (11-8, 2-0) played the second of a three-game series in Bowling Green Kentucky, as they defeated the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers by a final score of 8-7.
Though starting pitcher Carson Lester struggled early, the Blue Raider bullpen stepped up and provided five innings of three-run ball to preserve the victory. At the plate, senior second baseman Ryan Kemp and freshman outfielder Myles Christian drove in four of the eight runs on three combined hits.
Bullpen holds up despite three-run eighth
The Middle Tennessee relief pitchers put together one of their more consistent outings of the season, as they gave up only three runs late in the game with the team up by a comfortable margin.
Though it made the game close, the performances of Conner Bell and Austin Dennis in relief allowed them to hold on. Dennis, the starting centerfielder, earned the save with 1.1 innings of one-hit ball.
Bell put together one of his best showings of the young season, as he threw two shutout innings and only gave up two hits.
Lester didn’t perform quite as admirably as he’d hoped, as he gave up four runs over a span of four innings and only struck out one. He also struggled with command and walked three batters.
Offense strikes early, tacks on late runs in win
Middle Tennessee has had a habit of scoring runs early in games, then dissipating and waiting the other team out for the remainder of the contest. In scoring their eight runs today, they saw no such struggles.
They struck for four runs on two hits in the first, as Kemp singled in junior shortstop LA Woodard for a 1-0 lead. Christian added to the lead when he singled in Kemp, while senior designated hitter Aaron Aucker scored on an error by the centerfielder to make it a 3-0 game. Christian scored to end the inning with a 4-0 Blue Raider lead.
MTSU tacked on runs in the second, fifth, sixth and eighth innings to score their eight runs, allowing them to answer whatever offense Western mustered.
With the winning performances in the first two games of this series, the Blue Raiders could be turning a corner at a very crucial junction in the season.
Middle Tennessee will finish this series with Western Kentucky on Sunday, with first pitch set for 1 p.m.
To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email firstname.lastname@example.org.