Middle Tennessee clinches series win over ULL

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee escaped a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning to hold off Louisiana-Lafayette’s rally and claim a 7-5 victory Saturday afternoon at Reese Smith Jr. Field.

ULL (17-5, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference) trailed 7-2 entering the eighth inning and began cutting into the Blue Raiders’ lead with a solo home run byTyler Girouard.

Three straight hits to start the ninth inning — back-to-back singles by Blake Trahan and Dex Kjerstad, followed by a pinch hit double by Jace Conrad — cut the Middle Tennesssee lead to 7-4.

A one-out walk by Girouard loaded the bases, then Caleb Adams singled to right field, bringing home another run. That put the Blue Raiders (14-10, 2-3) and reliever Paul Mittura in a tight spot, with bases loaded and only one out.

Mittura was able to retire Seth Harrison with a strikeout on three straight swings, and Chase Compton lined out to Ryan Stephens in center field for the final out.

The Blue Raiders claimed the weekend series with the victory, becoming the first team to win a series against the Ragin’ Cajuns in six weekends. ULL, which lost 12-5 in the series opener Friday, dropped back-to-back games for the first time in 22 outings this season.

The series concludes at noon Sunday with Cajuns left-hander Cody Boutte (4-0, 4.55) being matched up against Blue Raiders left-hander Zac Curtis (3-2, 5.92 ERA). First pitch has been moved up one hour to avoid storms predicted for late Sunday afternoon.

Middle Tennesssee pitcher Johnathan Frebis held the Cajuns to two runs on six hits in six innings. By contrast, Austin Robichaux was responsible for six Middle Tennesssee runs on 10 hits in his six-plus innings. Robichaux allowed more than four hits for only the second time in six starts.

Girouard posted a multiple-hit game for the fourth time in five Sun Belt contests, finishing 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. The third-year sophomore from Lafayette now has 11 extra-base hits, accounting for nearly half of his 24 season hits.

Michael Adkins, whose two-run homer in the seventh inning opened the 7-2 lead, led the Blue Raiders with four RBI.

The Ragin’ Cajuns lost a weekend series to the Blue Raiders for only the third time in 13 series since Middle Tennessee joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2001.

ULL scored first for a second straight day, as back-to-back doubles from Michael Strentz and Girouard with two outs in the first inning produced a run.

A hit-by-pitch and walk give Middle Tennesssee two base runners in the bottom of the first. Both runners later scored on an Adkins single up the middle for a 2-1 lead.

Frebis and Robichaux swapped scoreless frames the next two innings.

Both ended the third inning with consecutive strikeouts.

ULL had runners on the corners with one out in the top of the third, but Frebis struck out Adams and Harrison swinging to end the frame. Robichaux caught the final two Middle Tennesssee hitters looking to end the third after the Raiders had runners on second and third with one out.

Solo home runs by Dain McNabb and Trent Miller in the fourth and fifth inning, respectively, helped the Blue Raiders offset a run that the Cajuns had picked up in their half of the fifth off a Dex Kjerstad triple and subsequent Ryan Leonards double and maintain a two-run edge.

Stephens tripled and scored on a Robichaux wild pitch adding a run for the Blue Raiders in the bottom of the seventh, increasing the lead to 5-2. Middle Tennesssee picked up valuable breathing room three batters later, when Adkins launched the Blue Raiders’ third home run of the day, a two-run shot over the left-field fence.