Story by Elisha Nelson / Contributing Writer
The Blue Raiders picked up a win at home on Friday after shutting out Southern Miss 4-0 to get their first conference win of the season.
Middle Tennessee (13-14, 1-0 C-USA) showed out on the night thanks to a shutout performance by pitcher Gretchen Mead, who struck out 10 Southern Miss (17-10, 0-1 C-USA) batters and allowed just five hits throughout the game.
The chances for holding onto their narrow lead grew for the Blue Raiders going into the top of the third inning, where an offensive explosion ensued for Middle Tennessee. Only up by a run at 1-0, Amaya Harris was struck by a pitch to go with a sacrifice bunt by outfielder Kelci Hill that put the Blue Raiders on second base. Shortstop Laura Mealer proved instrumental for Middle Tennessee’s scoring chances, as her single to left field gave Harris the first of several scores that inning, along with another base hit that put them up 4-0.
Senior Lani Rodriguez had a standout performance, making the best of both of her at bats resulting in base hits as well as her third inning run that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Freshman catcher Ava Tepe’s teammates showed no shortness of confidence in their fellow Blue Raider following the shutout performance, with Gretchen Mead accrediting her with her pitching success, “I knew I’d popped her up twice before and I had confidence in her to throw a dirty pitch if she called one and that nobody would touch it.”
As for Middle Tennessee’s pitcher, the team looks to be confident going forward with a pitcher that has claimed two complete shutouts in just three career starts.
“Gretchen pitched well tonight because she worked her butt off to get to where she was ready to do this,” were the words of belief from Blue Raider head coach Jeff Breeden. “I’m so proud of her. She’s a senior that’s been in this program a long time and she dealt tonight against a really good team, a team that beat Florida.”
The Blue Raiders are set to meet Southern Miss once again to finish its three-game series on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.