MTSU Strikes for Six Unearned Runs in Eighth Inning for Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With the game tied at 3-3 in the eighth inning, Middle Tennessee State batted around and plated six unearned runs to break open the contest and held off a bottom of the ninth inning rally for a 9-4 win over the Kentucky Wildcats, on Wednesday night at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (6-7) rallied from behind for two runs to tie the game at 3-3 heading to the top of the eighth. The Blue Raiders then struck for six runs off the Wildcat bullpen, with UK relievers Alex Phillips and Trevor Gott allowing the six unearned runs in the frame. Phillips (0-1) took the loss, allowing the decisive run in his three innings in relief of freshman starter Jonathan Paquet. Phillips allowed four hits and two runs in his three frames, while Gott got two outs in the eighth inning, allowing four hits and five unearned runs, with one walk and two strikeouts. Gott was a strike away from getting out of the inning with the game still tied 3-3 after getting two strikeouts with the bases loaded and no outs, but MTSU second baseman Johnny Thomas poked a single through the infield with two strikes and two outs to open the six-run rally.
Middle Tennessee (3-10) opened up the game in the decisive eighth, as the Blue Raiders totaled five hits, one walk and one hit batter in its big frame. The Blue Raiders used strong relief outings from freshman Paul Mittura (1-1), who recorded his first career win. Jud Stolz got the fin, throwing four pitches and getting the game-ending double play. After MTSU got the leadoff runner on base with a single, Will Skinner laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt but it was misplayed by Gott, allowing Skinner to reach on the error and translating to the six runs scored as unearned.
UK loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Paul McConkey and Matt Reida, a pair of freshman infielders and centerfielder Brian Adams led off the frame with two walks and a hit by pitch. Senior shortstop Taylor Black made the first out and scored McConkey with a sacrifice fly and junior leftfielder Chad Wright singled to load the bases again, but third sacker Thomas McCarthy hit into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game.
The Wildcats totaled eight hits in the game, as eight of nine starters collected hits. Wright led the way with the lone multi-hit game for UK, going 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. Black led UK with two RBI, adding an RBI single. McConkey drew two walks in the game, scoring a team-high two runs, while Adams, Reida, Braden Kapteyn, J.T. Riddle and Michael Williams each charting hits. Adams extending his hitting streak to a team-high seven games and McConkey has now hit safely in five consecutive games. McCarthy had his stretch of reaching base safely in a team-high 12 consecutive games snapped with an 0-for-5 game, as the third baseman had reached safely in every game of his career entering Wednesday.
UK suffered a rash of bad luck at the plate, as UK hit into four double plays in the game, including two ground ball double plays that would have scored a run and two double plays where a UK hitter hit a hard-hit line drive right at a MTSU infielder, with UK’s baserunners caught off base.
Paquet was solid in his second career start, going four innings and allowing four hits and two runs, walking three and striking out a career-best five. UK also used Walter Wijas in the game, in addition to Phillips and Gott, with Wijas going the final 1.1 innings scoreless.
Kentucky returns to action with a three-game weekend series, hosting Niagara beginning Friday at 4 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. All three games will be broadcast live on the Big Blue Sports Network (radio) with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.
MTSU got on the board in the fourth inning, plating two runs on two hits to take a 2-1 lead. Justin Guidry led off the inning with a walk, scoring on Robert Lawrence’s double down the left-field line. After Ryan Stephens singled, Johnny Thomas hit into a 1-4-3 groundball double play that allowed Lawrence to score.
UK scored its first run of the game in the second inning, as Kapteyn reached on an error, moving to third on a single from Williams. With McConkey at the plate, Kapteyn scored on a wild pitch.
The Blue Raiders score another run on three hits in the fifth inning, as Jordan Rorex led off with a single, stealing second base. After a single from Hank LaRue, Rorex scored on a groundball double play hit by Tyler Acker.
In the seventh inning, UK tied the game with a two-out rally. McConkey reached on a one-out single, moving to third on Reida’s single to centerfield. Black scored McConkey with a single to left and Wright scored Reida with a single through the left side of the infield to tie the game at 3-3.
MTSU mounted the decisive rally off the UK pen in the eighth, as six runs crossed the plate on five hits, one walk and a hit by pitch. The big hit came as a two-out bases clearing double into the gap from Hank LaRue.
The Wildcats attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with no outs, using two walks and a hit by pitch. Black scored McConkey, who led off the inning with a walk, on a sacrifice fly to rightfield for the first out.