Middle Tennessee’s Hoffmann blanks Rice in series opener

Photo by Meagan White // Staff Photographer 

It was nothing short of pitching dominance at Reese Smith Jr. Field on Friday night Nate Hoffmann threw. The first complete game shutout for the Blue Raiders since May 2014 when Zac Curtis shutout Florida Atlantic.

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (13-13) defeated the Rice Owls (15-10) 3-0 behind Hoffmann’s dominant performance and Aaron Aucker’s two RBI performance.

The pitching for Middle Tennessee saw a drastic improvement from their 9-2 loss against the University of Tennessee.

Senior right handed pitcher Hoffmann started the game and pitched all nine innings. Hoffmann allowed only three hits and and struck out six batters, while holding Rice scoreless and earning his first win of the season.

“All year I’ve been struggling getting a good first inning,” Hoffmann said. “Even today a little bit. I just slowed myself down mentally and physically and focused on throwing strikes.”

“He was the difference in the game,” head coach Jim McGuire said about Hoffmann. “If we don’t have Nate [Hoffmann] we don’t win… He went toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers in the conference.”

The Blue Raiders were scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning when junior first baseman Kevin Dupree singled to the right side and brought in freshman right fielder Austin Dennis.

Aucker brought in Dennis and Riley Delgado to give the Blue Raiders a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Aucker finished the game going 1-for-4 with 2 RBI.

“It’s going to be tough. They’re going to run two good pitchers out there… We’ve got to stick with the offensive approach we had when we got our hits. Hit the ball in the middle of the field. When we don’t do that we struggle,” McGuire said looking ahead to the two games left in the series against Rice.

The Blue Raiders will continue their series against Rice on Saturday, as first pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT from Reese Smith Jr. Field.

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To contact Sports Editor Connor Grott, email sports@mtsusidelines.com or follow him on Twitter at @Connor_Grott.

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