Middle Tennessee closes out regular season with victory over WKU

Frebis, Henzman solid in starting roles

May 19, 2012 · Athletic Communications
Final Box Score (PDF)

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Rightfielder Dalton Henzman made the most of his starting role on Saturday in his native state of Kentucky, going 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI to lead the Blue Raider baseball team to a 6-1 victory over the WKU Hilltoppers in the regular-season finale at Nick Denes Field. Justin Guidry delivered a solid performance as well with a 3-for-4, two-RBI day.

“Even though we already knew we had made the Sun Belt Tournament, the cry was still the same coming in today: let’s get a win,” head coach Steve Peterson said. “We came out and played hard today. We finally put some hits together, and Dalton was really the story today. Trent (Miller) was in the lineup, but had an allergic reaction to something, so I put Dalton in right before the game started. I’m really proud of him because that’s not an easy thing to do.”

Middle Tennessee closes out the 2012 campaign with a 14-16 Sun Belt mark and is currently 29-27 overall, but the Blue Raiders are guaranteed at least three games at next week’s Sun Belt Tournament. MT awaits seeding based on tonight’s league games.

Henzman, making his first start since March 17, was one of four Blue Raiders with multiple hits, along with Guidry, Hank LaRue and Robert Lawrence.

“Today coach wanted me to play right and I gave it my best effort,” Henzman said. “It’s good to come in, pick up your team and have a good outing. When you get your chance to help the team out, you try to do that in any way you can. I just got out there, tried to relax and tried to move runners over.”

It didn’t take the Lexington, Ky., native long to make good on that effort. The Blue Raiders put the game’s first run on the board in the second, getting the offense rolling with back-to-back singles from Lawrence and Johnny Thomas. Henzman delivered the RBI with a two-out laser to centerfield, scoring Lawrence.

With the 1-0 lead, starter Johnathan Frebis (5-3) settled in, retiring 12 of 13 batters after giving up a leadoff hit in the first. He plowed through five innings to pick up the victory, allowing just four hits without walking a batter.

Frebis got into a bit of a jam in the fifth after a pair of singles nearly gave WKU (24-31, 13-17 SBC) the equalizer, but it was Henzman with a heads up throw to Thomas, who relayed the ball to catcher Michael Adkins for the final out of the inning to preserve the one-run lead.

“I just tried to get it in Johnny’s hands and let him make the next play,” Henzman said. “I wanted to get it in as soon as possible because I knew they had a fast runner at first, and Johnny made a great throw.”

Frebis would give way to Nathan Foriest to start the sixth. Foriest tossed two innings and gave up a run, but didn’t allow a hit while walking two. Paul Mittura and Keaton Baker combined to close out the final two shutout innings.

“We pitched well this weekend, but just couldn’t come up with the timely hits until today,” Peterson said. “I know our pitching staff feels good going into the tournament after a solid weekend.”

It was Guidry’s solo shot to lead off the sixth that proved to be the game-winning run, as he slammed a 2-0 pitch over the bullpen in right field for his fourth long ball of the season. He added another RBI in the seventh with his third hit of the game. Henzman doubled to left to open the frame and Ryan Ford’s base-hit put runners at the corners before Guidry’s gapper tallied the third run. LaRue followed suit, drilling one to right for the four-run cushion.

WKU finally pushed a run across in the eighth, capitalizing on a leadoff walk to Ryan Messex. Scott Wilcox drove Messex in with a single and Ryan Hutchison’s long fly ball with two on nearly made it a one-run game, but centerfielder Ryan Stephens’ tremendous sliding grab ended the Hilltoppers’ threat.

“Stephens’ catch was a big-league catch,” Peterson said. “I honestly thought the ball was out of the park, but we’ve seen (Stephens) do that all during the season.”

MT tacked on a couple of insurance runs in the ninth when Henzman got the ball rolling again with a leadoff single. After a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch put Henzman at third, Ford took a walk before Jordan Rorex drove in a run with a smack up the middle. Rorex got into a run-down on a steal attempt, but it paid off when Wilcox threw the ball into right field, allowing Ford to score on the error to account for the 6-1 win.

The Sun Belt Tournament opens on Wednesday at the Bowling Green Ballpark. The full bracket will be announced later tonight following the final league games. For more information, click here.

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