Story by Will Carter / Sports Editor
Middle Tennessee (17-16, 8-6 C-USA) couldn’t quite get going early in the second game of the series against Charlotte (19-15, 5-9 C-USA) while the Niners achieved the complete opposite by scoring nine runs through the first four innings of the game which eventually lead them to a 10-5 victory and an even series.
Sophomore Eriq Swan started on the mound for the Blue Raiders, but he didn’t last as long as they intended. After giving up three earned runs, Swan was replaced by James Sells in the second inning. Swan received two more earned runs before the inning was over.
He finished with five earned runs on five hits with one strikeout and two walks in his credited loss.
“You have to realize that umpires are a little bit tighter in the first few innings,” Blue Raiders head coach Jim Toman said. “It seemed like we were missing pitches by just a little bit, and we got off to a bad start. I thought Sells could stop the bleeding a little bit, but he came into a tough situation. We just didn’t pitch well enough.”
The Blue Raiders didn’t push a run across until the fourth inning when Brian Dillingham knocked a single that scored Tatsunori Negishi from second base. It wasn’t until the seventh inning that they scored another run when Briggs Rutter singled to move Mabry over to third base. Mabry advanced to home after an errant throw went into the Niners dugout.
Rutter finished 2-for-2 on the night with one RBI. Mabry complimented Rutter’s performance by going 2-for-4 at the plate to improve on his last few performances. He has hits in his last nine attempts at the plate, including his walk off on Thursday night.
Rutter also singled in the seventh to bring Luke Vinson across the plate, and started the rally the Blue Raiders had been looking for all game.
“We’ve had it all year as a team where we’ve been able to come back in some games after being punched in the mouth. We just have that dog mentality that we’re never out in a game,” Rutter said. “If you look at that game, we won the game after the fifth inning. When you play well at the end of a game like that, you try to take it into the next game. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
Wyatt Morgan provided another bright spot for Middle Tennessee by going 3-for-3 at the plate.
The Blue Raiders used several different pitchers and position players throughout the game to keep some guys fresh, and get some others some valuable time on the field. However, there are still some valuable arms that will be available heading into the series finale on Saturday.
“We’ll have Wigginton, Seibert, and Hamm available tomorrow,” Toman said. “That’s a pretty good trio to have going into Sunday.”
With a win on Saturday, the Blue Raiders will secure their fourth consecutive series and five out of their last six. The win could also give them a boost in the conference standings depending on the outcomes across Conference USA tomorrow.
The rubber match is set for Noon on Saturday inside Reese Smith Jr. Field.