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Blue Raiders lose series finale to FIU, 9-5

LaRue, Stephens and Thomas post three-hit days

May 8, 2011 · Athletic Communications
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee baseball team held on to a lead for much of the day, but a five-run eighth inning propelled visiting FIU to a 9-5 victory over the Blue Raiders at Reese Smith Jr. Field on Sunday afternoon.

"We had the lead through seven innings, but we just couldn't score enough runs," head coach Steve Peterson said. "Against a club like FIU, you need to score runs. It doesn't surprise me that they put a big inning up against us, they do that to pretty much everybody. They're a very good offensive club."

Ryan Stephens posted a career day for the Blue Raiders, going 3-for-4. The freshman, known more for his defensive prowess in centerfield, tallied a pair of runs and a run batted in from the ninth spot in the order.

"Stephens hit the ball hard three times," Peterson said. "I really believe that everything is going to click with him offensively. He's a good athlete, he works hard, and he really helps out our pitching staff with his defense."

Hank LaRue also went 3-for-4 with two RBI, and Johnny Thomas was the only other Blue Raider with multiple hits, ending 3-for-5.

On the mound, Eric Gilley put together a solid outing, allowing two runs and five hits over five innings.

Hunter Dawson was pegged with the loss, giving up three runs in two innings of work, and Paul Mittura allowed four over one.

Faced with an early 1-0 deficit, Middle Tennessee (15-32, 7-17 SBC) responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Ryan Ford led off the frame with a walk, and later scored on a Stephens single to right. LaRue brought him home with a single of his own up the middle.

Will Skinner added to the lead with his Sun Belt-best 14th home run of the season in the fourth, and Stephens scored on a LaRue sacrifice fly in the fifth to put the Blue Raiders up 4-1.

The Panthers (32-16, 16-8 SBC) outscored Middle Tennessee 8-1 over the final four innings to secure the win.

Middle Tennessee will now prepare for a midweek series with in-state foe Tennessee. The Blue Raiders will head to Knoxville on Tuesday before hosting the Volunteers at Reese Smith Jr. Field on Wednesday. Both games are slated to begin at 6 p.m.

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