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Baseball: MTSU hold off Vandy to secure a Victory


Baseball: MTSU hold off Vandy to secure a Victory

Article from Blue Raiders, Daily News Journal:

Blue Raiders slam 'Dores in NCAA tourney

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — MTSU’s stay in the NCAA baseball tournament won’t be a short one.

The Blue Raiders jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and fought back a furious Vanderbilt rally, knocking off the third-seeded Commodores 5-4 in the first game of the Louisville Regional Friday afternoon in front of 2,117 at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The 25th-ranked and second-seeded Blue Raiders (44-16) move on to face Louisville Saturday at 6 p.m. in the winner’s bracket final. Vanderbilt (34-26) will face Indiana in an elimination game at 2 p.m.

Starting pitcher Kenny Roberts (11-1), a former Siegel High School standout, earned the victory for the Blue Raiders, allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings of
work. Junior Coty Woods, a Riverdale product, pitched the final two innings for his school-record 15th save of the season.

“We’re happy to get a win,” said MTSU coach Steve Peterson. “We’re going to have respect for any team we see in that other dugout, because right now there are only 64 teams left in America.”

Vanderbilt’s Mike Minor was touched for four runs in the first inning and five overall, to take the complete-game loss for the Commodores just one week after a six-hit, one-run performance to defeat LSU in the first game of the SEC tournament.

“I pitched well enough to win after the first inning,” said Minor, who fell to 6-5 on the season. “But a four-spot in the first inning, that isn’t going to get it done.”

Junior rightfielder Stuart Meinhart struck the game’s biggest blow in the first inning.

With one out, Blake McDade and Bryce Brentz put together back-to-back singles before third baseman Rawley Bishop walked. That’s when Meinhart drove the first pitch he saw over the right-field wall.

“They just hit good pitches,” said Minor.

McDade led all Blue Raiders with three hits, while shortstop Tyler Burnett added two.
Roberts held Vanderbilt scoreless through the first three innings, but the Commodores finally broke through in the top of the fourth, scoring a pair to cut the deficit to 4-2. Roberts hit Commodore first baseman Curt Casali with a pitch and designated hitter Aaron Westlake, who led the Commodores at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance, followed with a double to right field.

Andrew Giobbi followed with an RBI groundout and Jason Esposito singled to left field before Roberts retired second baseman Riley Reynolds to get out of the inning.

In the fifth, Roberts got into more trouble, walking the bases loaded after retiring the first two batters of the inning. However, he re-grouped and forced Vandy third baseman Josh Esposito into a groundout to the pitcher’s mound.

After warming up relievers Nick Montgomery and Justin Guidry in the MTSU bullpen, Peterson elected to send Roberts back out. The junior responded by retiring the next six batters he faced, finally relinquishing the mound after Weslake led off the top of the eighth with a double.

“I just realized that I had to get ahead early,” said Roberts, who combined with Woods to walk eight Commodore batters. “It was a tight zone, but I was falling behind in the count. I just battled through and tried to figure out a way to stay ahead.”

Minor allowed just three MTSU hits between the second and seventh innings, but with no outs in the Blue Raider half of the seventh, Vandy’s ace hung a 1-1 curveball to MTSU second baseman Taylor Dennis.

“It’s No. 1,” said Dennis when asked where the hit ranked on his all-time list. “Because we beat Vandy. That’s all there is to it.”

The Commodores added two more runs in the top of the eighth, to cut the deficit to just one heading into the final frame. Jonathan White led off the inning with a double to right field off of Woods, who later loaded the bases with a two-out walk to Giobbi.

However, the junior college transfer from Walters State got third baseman Jason Esposito to ground into a game-ending fielder’s choice, leaving the tying run stranded.

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