Story by William Carter / Contributing Writer
Bullpen woes upended the MTSU baseball team’s chance of defeating longtime diamond rival Murray State. The Blue Raiders fell 12-7 to the Racers Wednesday evening.
The Racers opened the game scoring two runs, but the Blue Raiders answered back with a two-run home run from DJ Wright. Wright also pitched 2.1 innings. He was one of six pitchers used by Coach Jim Toman.
“Well, we’re trying to get a lot of different people opportunities to pitch, and when you have a lot of games in a short amount of time, it’s taxing on your bullpen… We still have some guys that haven’t gotten the opportunity, and they’ll pitch eventually… We gotta see a lot of pitchers, so we know who is going to be our go-to guy,” Toman said.
The Racers scored three runs in the second inning which led to the first pitching change of the game. Austin Cheeley took Walker Armstrong’s spot on the mound for the Blue Raiders and struck out the first batter he saw, but MTSU’s pitching struggles continued into the third with Murray adding another run on a wild pitch by Cheeley.
“Well, we’re not ready to play yet. We’ve had really cold weather. The fall was different with Covid. The weight room, conditioning, and practice, it’s all been different and we’re just getting used to it. I thought last year this time we were in a lot better shape. This year, we’re not quite there yet, but we’ll get there,” said Toman.
Middle Tennessee closed the gap in the sixth after Murray State walked the first four batters of the side. First baseman Mark Engel came in to pinch hit, scoring Mason Spiers on a sacrifice fly to center field.
DJ Wright brought in the last two runs for Middle Tennessee in the sixth with a chopper to the first baseman.
The Racers extended their lead late in the game with a run in both the eighth and ninth innings. The Blue Raiders weren’t able to rally late, going down 1-2-3 to end the game.
Middle Tennessee continues its season Friday (Feb. 26) with the first of a three-game set versus Bowling Green University. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.