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Nine hits not enough as Blue Raiders fall, 8-4

LaRue notches two doubles in return to field

March 8, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Despite racking up nine hits, including five doubles, Middle Tennessee fell, 8-4, to Xavier at Reese Smith Jr. Field on Friday afternoon.

MT drops to 9-4 on the season while Xavier improves to 5-7.

Hunter Adkins, who had won his previous three starts, dropped to 1-3 on the season after allowing six runs on nine hits in six innings pitched.  

Hank LaRue, who hasn't played since Feb. 26, was 2-for-4 with two doubles to lead the Raiders.  Johnny Thomas and Ryan Stephens were 2-for-4 as well, as Stephens drove in three of MT's four runs.

Xavier lit up the board first, scoring five runs in the top of the second off of five hits, including a grand slam by Brian Bruening.

MT got one run back in the fourth, when Thomas singled with one out, then moved to third on Trent Miller's double to center.  Michael Adkins flew out to right in the next at-bat, but Thomas was able to score on the play.

After falling behind 6-1, MT struck back with two runs in the seventh. Ellison led off with a single down the left line, followed by LaRue's first double of the contest.  With one-out and both runners in scoring position, Stephens drove a 1-2 pitch into center field, allowing Ellison and LaRue to score.

Xavier answered back in the eighth, however, tacking on two runs and creating an insurmountable five-run lead.

The Blue Raiders attempted a ninth-inning comeback as LaRue knocked a one-out double, and later scored when Lawrence doubled into right field, but that was as much offense as the squad could muster.

Jon Richard (2-1) picked up the win for the Musketeers, throwing seven complete innings and allowing just three runs while scattering seven hits and striking out five Blue Raiders.

MT will look to snap their two-game skid tomorrow, when they face Xavier in Game 2 of the three-game series on Saturday.  

Johnathan Frebis (2-0) gets the start, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. at Reese Smith Jr. Field.

HEAD COACH JIM MCGUIRE

On Xavier pitching staff...
"When they got the lead, when it went to 5-0, it allowed the pitcher to dictate the game and do whatever he wants to do and relax more.  Traditionally, [Jon Richard] throws the ball and tries to locate away from you, but with the five-run lead, now he's able to work both sides of the plate because he doesn't have to work about being so fine with everything that he does. So, I think that really, really made a difference for him. It allowed him to settle in, and he did a good job. And we hit some balls hard, but with such a big lead, he's going to throw strikes and make sure you're putting the ball in play. So, I think he did a job and really settled in. He was able to pitch. Even when he was behind in the count, he was able to keep us off balance all day."

On Hunter Adkins' performance after a shaky start...
"I think he just relaxed a little bit more. I think he got to rushing and trying to go too quick and trying to make things happen too fast.  I think he was too worried about the running game, and he was trying to speed the game up instead of slow it down. After that, coach [Skylar] Meade sat him down and just said, 'We have to get some innings out of you. You're going to have to go back out there and battle your way through it.' And, in the back of our minds, know that he's got to get ready for next week's conference opener. So, I was proud of him from that end of it. He managed the game for those few innings, and we got it to 5-1 where if we could have gotten anything going, I think we would have been right back in the game."

JUNIOR INFIELDER HANK LARUE

On his shoulder and how he felt at the plate..."The shoulder felt better today. This warmer weather helps me out a little bit, stay loose. I felt comfortable at the plate. I had some good swings, but missed some good pitches in some big situations where if I'm able to pick up a hit there it maybe changes the game for us."

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