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Blue Raiders' rally at Memphis comes up short

LaRue goes 4-for-4 on the day

March 27, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Blue Raider baseball team rallied from a three-run deficit to tie the game in the fourth but came up short in the end as Memphis claimed a 6-4 win to split the series on Wednesday night at FedEx Park.

First baseman Hank LaRue had a 4-for-4 day at the plate and scored a run, while four different Blue Raiders drove in a run.

The Blue Raiders (16-11) got on the board first for the second straight day, with second baseman Johnny Thomas again driving in the first run. Shortstop Ryan Ford took a leadoff walk and made his way to third on a failed pickoff attempt. Thomas plated him with a base-hit to left for the 1-0 lead.

Memphis (14-11) responded with a four-run first to take a three-run lead. Starter Garrett Ring walked two of the first three batters, and both runners moved up on an errant pickoff attempt at second. First baseman Tucker Tubbs gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead with a two-run single. Another walk and a passed ball put runners at second and third again, with third baseman Drew Griffin delivering the two-RBI single to make it a 4-1 contest.

Ring exited during the first after allowing all four runs, only three of them earned. Kooper Kessler came on in relief and allowed just two hits to go along with three strikeouts over the next 4.2 innings. Kessler would sit down 11 in a row from the third into the fifth, working his way out of a bases loaded jam in the frame to keep it knotted at four.

While Kessler held the Tiger offense at bay, MT rallied to tie the game in the fourth. LaRue and rightfielder Jake Ellison opened the frame with back-to-back base-hits and both moved up on a wild pitch. Third baseman Robert Lawrence cut the deficit in half on an RBI groundout. Catcher Dain McNabb followed with a walk in front of a double from Ford that dropped just inside the rightfield line to bring the Blue Raiders within a run. Centerfielder Ryan Stephens knotted things up at four with a sacrifice fly to center field.

The Tigers regained the lead in the sixth using three singles to score a pair of runs off MT reliever Cody Tollison. Memphis pushed one across on a safety squeeze and added the second on a single from rightfielder Bryce Beeler to go up 6-4.

Tollison (1-1) would suffer the loss after tossing just two-thirds of an inning and giving up two runs on three hits.

Clayton Gant (1-2) picked up the win for the Tigers with five innings of shutout relief. He scattered just three hits over the final frames, retiring eight in a row at one point.

The Blue Raiders continue the roadtrip with a weekend series at Troy. MT looks to continue its Sun Belt winning streak on Friday at 6 p.m. at Riddle-Pace Field.

HEAD COACH JIM MCGUIRE
On tonight's game...
"The day didn't start off very well. Garrett Ring couldn't get out of the first inning, and we had to play from behind. Luckily we battled enough to get it tied. In the end we just couldn't get it done. We couldn't do much offensively off Gant when he came in the game."

On making adjustments against Gant...
"We haven't done a good job all spring of when somebody comes in, being able to adjust and trying to do what we want to do. Disappointed with what we did offensively. Pitching-wise, we had two bad innings and that was it. It gave us a chance to win the game, we just couldn't get it done."

On Kooper Kessler...
"He's been working hard to get into the mix. We've just had good starting pitching and opportunities have been limited. I was happy with what he did and how he competed. He got a little frazzled there at the end, but was able to get out of it. He helped us manage the game and keep it tight in that situation."

On Hank LaRue...
"He's been nursing the shoulder and we've been trying to be careful, especially in the cold weather. Luckily the weather warmed up a little today where he could get back swinging the bat. All four at-bats, he was really locked in. He really battled and we need that."

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