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Ninth-inning rally comes up short for Blue Raiders at Troy

Thomas drives in game-tying run in ninth

March 29, 2013 · @MTAthletics

TROY, Ala. - Second baseman Johnny Thomas drove in the game-tying run in the top of the ninth for Middle Tennessee, but it was Troy that answered with the game-winning run in the bottom of the inning to claim the 3-2 victory on Friday night at Riddle-Pace Field.

Centerfielder Ryan Stephens led the Blue Raiders (16-12, 3-4 Sun Belt) offensively with a 3-for-5 day and scored the game-tying run in the ninth.

Starter Hunter Adkins was solid in 7.1 innings, allowing just two runs on five hits and fanning seven. It was Paul Mittura (0-1) that took the loss, coming on in the ninth and allowing the final run on two hits with a walk.

The Blue Raiders pushed a run across in the second after capitalizing on an error. Leftfielder Trent Miller doubled to the right-centerfield gap to open the frame and advanced on an errant throw to third on the fielder's choice. First baseman Hank LaRue drove Miller in with a base-knock back up the middle to make it 1-0.

The Trojans (17-7, 4-3 SBC) answered with a run in the bottom half of the inning to knot things up at one. After a single from leftfielder Josh McDorman, centerfielder Ali Knowles scored McDorman from first with a double to right.

A solo shot from third baseman Danny Collins in the third gave the Trojans a 2-1 lead.

MT had chances throughout the contest, putting the leadoff batter on in five innings. The Blue Raiders stranded 12 in the game, leaving the tying run at third twice. In the eighth, designated hitter Michael Adkins took a leadoff walk and was replaced by pinch runner Jordan Rorex. Rorex stole second and third on back-to-back pitches, but was thrown out at home on a fielder's choice when rightfielder Jake Ellison hit a sharp grounder to third.

That set the scene for the Blue Raiders' ninth-inning rally. With two outs, Stephens laced a single that hit landed just out of reach of a diving Knowles. Second baseman Johnny Thomas then roped a double that hit off the glove and landed over the head of McDorman, scoring Stephens from first to tie the game.

But the Trojans rallied back in the bottom of the ninth as first baseman Trae Santos led off the frame with a single and designated hitter Matthew Howard followed with a walk. A sacrifice bunt advanced both runners and it was McDorman's base-knock to right that pushed the game-winning run across.

Troy reliever Nate Hill (1-1) picked up the win with 3.2 innings of two-hit ball. He gave up one run and walked two with four strikeouts.

The Blue Raiders look to rebound on Saturday at 6 p.m. in game two against the Trojans. Johnathan Frebis will take the mound for MT.

HEAD COACH JIM MCGUIRE
On the shortlived comeback...
"It didn't last very long. We struggled at times offensively all night. We put ourselves in position in the ninth and Ryan Stephens fought off a couple pitches to get the base-hit to center. Then Johnny got the big hit to tie the game. Momentum kind of felt like it was going our way. We just came up short."

On Mittura...
"I felt like we made a lot of different moves. Some of those things really worked out, like pinch-running Rorex. We made the moves on the mound in the last inning and it worked. It kept us in a 2-1 game, but Paul just didn't have it tonight. His command was not there like it normally is."

On tonight's performance...
"We're disappointed. We left a lot of runs out there early. Hunter settled down and I thought he did a great job, he just couldn't get any offensive support."

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