HATTIESBURG, MS—Middle Tennessee (31-25) held off ODU’s (33-23) bases loaded threat in the top of the ninth to defeat the Monarchs, 3-2 in the first game of the 2014 Conference USA Baseball Championships at Pete Taylor Park, hosted by Southern Miss. The Monarchs will play FIU, a 9-2 loser to No. 18 Rice Thursday morning at 10 am ET in an elimination game.
CHRIS FINWOOD QUOTES-“It was a good ballgame. I thought both teams pitched pretty well. They make a great catch in right (field) that saves one or two runs. That may have been the difference. But the story of that game is that we just couldn’t get a big hit with guys on second. “We had a lot of chances today, we just didn’t make due with enough of them. They made some pitches, but at the end of the day, somebody has to get a big hit. It’s conference tournament time. We just couldn’t do it today.” “You can’t go 0-2 in the tournament. We have to find a way to regroup and defeat the loser of (Rice-FIU). It certainly won’t be easy. But we just have to get our hitters going. We’re not swinging the bats great right now.”
MTSU took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Dustin Delgado doubled with two outs to left-center to bring home Brad Jarreau and Austin Bryant. The Blue Raiders added a run in the fourth as Jake Ellison singled home Michael Adkins for a 3-0 lead.
ODU rallied with two runs in the fifth inning. Jordan Negrini and Ben Slaton were both hit with pitches from MTSU starter Zac Curtis. Tyler Urps singled home Slaton and First Team All-CUSA selection Nick Walker singled home Negrini to cut the lead to 3-2. With two outs MTSU’s Ellison made a diving catch on a P.J. Higgins drive to short right-center to get out of the jam.
ODU loaded the bases in the ninth with one out. Tyler Urps and Nick walker came up with back-to-back hits and pinch hitter Taylor Ostrich walked, but reliever Matt Blackham got Higgins to pop out and Josiah Burney to strikeout to end the game and pick up the save.
Zac Curtis (9-3) who beat ODU, 1-0 back on April 25th picked up the win, fanning six with one walk. ODU starter Ryan Yarbrough (6-7) took the loss after giving up three runs on eight hits, three walks and two strikeouts. Senior relievers Brett Harris and Dean Ali pitched four shutout innings, fanning five and allowing just one hit each.
Nick Walker and Tyler Urps each had three hits on the day for ODU. Walker raised his batting average to a team best . 337.
The Monarchs rank 25th nationally in double plays and its defense turned three today, and are just one shy of the school record of 58 set in 1985 and 1999.
ODU is scheduled to throw senior lefthander Andy Roberts (5-3/3.09), while FIU will throw Mike Franco (9-3/1.13).
ODU 000 020 000=2-9-0 MTSU 020 100 00x=3-10-0 ODU- Yarbrough, Harris(5), Ali (7) and Perez MTSU- Curtis, Kessler(8), Blackham(9) and Adkins WP: Curtis(9-3) LP: Yarbrough(6-7) Save: Blackham(1)