Seven-run sixth helps Middle Tennessee power past UALR

LaRue hits first home run of the season, Ford third

April 6, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Blue Raider baseball team exploded for a seven-run sixth inning to power past UALR, 14-6, on Saturday evening at Reese Smith Jr. Field.

Middle Tennessee (17-16, 4-7 Sun Belt) collected 17 hits in the contest. First baseman Hank LaRue slugged his first home run of the season and drove in four runs, while rightfielder Jake Ellison matched him with four RBI. Six Blue Raiders recorded multi-hit performances, led by Ellison and centerfielder Ryan Stephens, who each recorded three hits.

Shortstop Ryan Ford made it a quick 1-0 lead when he opened the bottom of the first with a solo home run, his third of the season. After LaRue took a one-out walk and moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt, leftfielder Trent Miller delivered an infield single deep in the six-hole to make it 2-0.

The Blue Raiders tacked on two more in the third, capitalizing on three straight two-out singles. Stephens led off the frame with a base-knock before second baseman Johnny Thomas, catcher Michael Adkins and Ellison reeled off singles, with Adkins and Ellison each picking up an RBI for the 4-0 lead.

A solo shot for rightfielder Sam Vogel put the Trojans on the board in the fifth, and UALR pushed two more runs across in the sixth to cut the deficit to one.

MT responded in a big way in the bottom of the inning, scoring seven runs to take an eight-run advantage. LaRue's three-run blast led the way, as he bounced a 1-1 pitch off the Lee Victory Wall of Champions in left field. Ellison also drove in a pair of runs in the inning with a two-out single, and third baseman Austin Bryant collected his first career RBI with a two-out base-knock to drive in the final run of the frame.

The Blue Raiders added three more in the seventh on RBIs from LaRue, Thomas and Ellison, making it a 14-3 contest.

The Trojans (15-15, 4-7 SBC) managed to score two more in the eighth and another in the ninth to account for the final score.

Johnathan Frebis (4-3) was solid in the start for MT, going 5.1 innings and giving up two runs, both earned, on four hits. He struck out six and walked two. Daniel Palo delivered 2.2 innings and gave up three runs, two earned, on four hits, and Joey McClung tossed the final inning, allowing one unearned run.

Blake Huffman (3-2) took the loss for UALR after allowing five runs, four of them earned, on eight hits. He also walked four and struck out four.

The two teams will meet in the series finale on Sunday at 1 p.m. Zac Curtis will take the mound for MT.

On the changes in the lineup...
"It was a different lineup, but it kind of changed the complexion of the game. Heath Slatton had a walk and we pinch-hit Jordan Rorex, and that's when we scored all the runs in that inning. Austin Bryant was able to get a couple hits, and he played good on defense as well. Sometimes when things aren't going well, you have to make some changes, and we did that and obviously a much better day today than yesterday."

On Jake Ellison's production at the plate in the seven-hole...
"He's done better. His best at-bat obviously was when we had runners at second and third with two outs, and he got down in the count but got a big hit to right field and drove in the runs. To me, that was when the game was pushed open, and I felt like we stayed in control, even though it may not have seemed that way late. I felt like we handled it well.

On what it means having Hank LaRue back in full swing in the lineup...
"This year has been tough for him with the injury, and we tried using him at the DH, but now he is getting into his rhythm and is getting going. He changes the complexion of the lineup because he will take a walk and not put himself in holes and be patient at the plate. When he does that, he has pitches to hit, and he has made them pay this weekend. The home run was huge and that is what got us going and you could see the relief in the dugout."

On getting back in the lineup...
"I'm getting healthier. This warm weather is really helping me out, and my shoulder's getting a lot better. I had some bad at-bats earlier in the year, but my approach has been a lot better, and I'm starting to square some balls up. The coaches have been patient with me so far, and I really appreciate that a lot because it's been ugly at times. But it's coming along."

On today's performance...
"It felt good today. I was able to get my first home run of the season, so that was great. I got a fastball out over the plate, and I was able to stay with it and drive it out. So that felt good, but really it was a big win for the team today. We've been struggling lately, especially offensively, and a lot of guys were able to step up today. We got rolling early, mainly because our approach was much better at the plate. So this was a big win for us, and hopefully we can keep things going tomorrow."

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