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Red-hot Lady Raiders cooled by Florida International

May 1, 2004 · MT Media Relations
MIAMI, Fla. - Middle Tennessee came into its four-game Sun Belt Conference series at Florida International as one of the hottest teams in the country, having won nine straight and 18-of-20, but the Lady Raiders suffered a pair of excruciating one-run setbacks in the draining south Florida sun Saturday.

The Lady Raiders (30-16, 10-4 Sun Belt) suffered a 5-4 setback in the opener, and then dropped a well-played 1-0 pitcher's duel in the nightcap, marking the first time they have suffered consecutive setbacks since March 22.

"These were two tough losses for our team but our players are focused and realize what has to be done when we come back (Sunday)," third-year Lady Raider coach Cindy Connelly said. "We can't drop our heads. Our team has been on a good run, and we have to regroup and try to start another streak (Sunday)."

The Lady Raiders remained in second place in the Sun Belt race despite the sweep and can still set up a regular-season championship showdown against Louisiana-Lafayette in the regular-season finale at Lady Raider Field next weekend by coming back with two wins Sunday. The defending champion Lady Cajuns were in a rain delay with Western Kentucky Saturday evening.

Trying to at least salvage a split after dropping the first game of the doubleheader, Middle Tennessee turned to heralded freshman pitcher Ashley Frizzell in the nightcap. The rookie hurler was dynamite as she pitched a complete-game one-hitter, striking out six, only to suffer the 1-0 loss, her first in seven decisions.

Frizzell retired the first seven Golden Panthers in succession and carried a no-hitter into the fourth, but Yarah Otero beat out a bang-bang play at first on a bunt that went a mere five feet in front of the plate after Deonni Murray had walked. Murray would later score the only run of the game with two outs on a steal of home plate.

"(Frizzell) was outstanding out there and she deserved a better outcome," Connelly said. "She pitched a great game and has continuously improved with each outing. Unfortunately, for us, we couldn't put together enough offense to get a win out of it."

Middle Tennessee's usually potent bats were silenced by FIU pitcher Amanda Nealer, who hurled a two-hit shutout. Leah Grothause and Brittany Herald collected the Lady Raiders' only two hits.

The Lady Raiders saw their season-high nine-game winning streak come to an abrupt halt in the first game of the twinbill as Florida International came off the deck to score three in the bottom of the seventh and take a 5-4 win.

Florida International took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but the Lady Raiders wouldn't stay down long as they struck for a four-spot in the top of the second. Middle Tennessee sent 10 batters to the plate in the four-run second despite collecting just one hit, a leadoff single from Angie Huebner; however, the Lady Raiders took advantage of an error, three walks and a hit batsman.

Middle Tennessee starting pitcher Crystal Bobo surrendered a single run in the third to cut the deficit to 4-2, but the junior hurler pitched one-hit ball over the next three innings and the Lady Raiders carried a 4-2 advantage into the bottom of the seventh. Although Bobo wasn't allowing hits, she did walk a career-high seven batters, including the leadoff batter in the seventh and she went to a 2-0 count on the second batter of the inning before giving way to freshman Trish White.

White issued free passes to three of the five batters she faced, and then she was lifted in favor of Leora Brannon, who allowed a two-out single to the only batter she faced. White suffered the tough-luck loss, her first in three decisions.

The bottom of the Lady Raiders' order provided four of the team's six hits, including a 2-for-3 performance from Kristina Hieb. Muriel Ledbetter had two of the team's RBI.

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