Blue Raiders claim series with 8-6 win over UALR

LaRue goes deep for second time in as many days

April 7, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Third baseman Hank LaRue hit his second home run in as many days to lead the Blue Raider baseball team to an 8-6 win over UALR in the series clincher on Sunday afternoon at Reese Smith Jr. Field.

LaRue returned to his regular position at third for the first time this year after having surgery for a torn labrum in the offseason. In addition to a couple of superb defensive plays at the hot corner, LaRue went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs.

First baseman Trent Miller also drove in a pair of runs on a 3-for5 day at the plate.

Middle Tennessee (18-16, 5-7 Sun Belt) sandwiched a pair of three-run frames around a solo home run from UALR's David Guarno to take a 6-1 lead after two inning.

Baseball vs. UALR
LaRue's second homer of the season gave the Blue Raiders an early 2-0 lead. Following a double from centerfielder Ryan Stephens, LaRue drilled a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right-center. A single from Miller and double from second baseman Johnny Thomas made it four straight hits for MT and put runners at second and third with one out. Designated hitter Michael Adkins grounded to second, scoring Miller to make it 3-0.

Leading 3-1 in the bottom of the second, the Blue Raiders capitalized on back-to-back singles from leftfielder Dalton Henzman and catcher Dain McNabb to open the frame. Shortstop Ryan Ford was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Stephens' deep fly to center drove in a run. Miller then roped a single to the gap in left-center to give the Blue Raiders a five-run advantage.

UALR (15-16, 4-8 SBC) inched closer in the third, taking advantage of three walks in the inning to make it a three-run game. Second baseman Chris Burk delivered the bases-loaded double to plate a pair and make it a 6-3 contest.

MT added a pair of crucial insurance runs in the fourth on RBI-singles from Adkins and Ellison for the 8-3 margin. Those runs would prove to be the difference in the game.

The Trojans fought back in the fifth, again cutting the deficit to three when catcher Blake Johnson hit a two-run home run. A one-out, RBI-double from rightfielder Sam Vogel accounted for UALR's final run in the eighth, as closer Paul Mittura pitched the final two innings, working around a walk and base-hit in the ninth to pick up his seventh save of the year.

Starter Zac Curtis went 4.2 innings and gave up five runs, all earned, on six hits. He struck out eight, one shy of his career-high, and walked three. Aaron Hyder (1-0) picked up his first win of the season with 2.1 innings of shutout ball. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one.

The Blue Raiders tagged UALR starter Ethan Schlechte (4-3) for six runs, all earned, on seven hits. He struck out just one without a walk.

MT continues the homestand Tuesday when Tennessee Tech visits Reese Smith Jr. Field. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.

On Paul Mittura's closing performance...
"For Paul, I think it's really better for him to start an inning clean. He comes in a little amped up sometimes, and you saw that today when he came in. When he did settle down, he threw it pretty well."

On Aaron Hyder's middle relief performance and how he helped the team...
"I thought he did an outstanding job. He hasn't pitched in a little while either and after the first hitter he faced, he really got going and pitched well. We kept going back and forth about whether or not we wanted them to see him a second time. But we went with him and without him and his effort today, there is no way we win the game."

On UALR being a strong hitting team and being able to limit them...
"I was looking at their stats as a team and noticed they are hitting .260 coming in. They have been swinging it great. But we were able to do some things, especially with driving the ball the other way with the wind, and that's what the difference was. We had a hard time getting the ball in enough on them to keep them from getting hits, but we got it done when we needed to and that is all that matters."

On the offense's groove this weekend...
"I think we're just more relaxed at the plate. As you could tell on Friday, we didn't swing the bats very well. Coach told us to go out there and start seeing pitches and change our approach when we get two strikes. And I think it made a big difference, we did a great job the last two days. Their pitching staff is very good, but we were able to make adjustments to how they were pitching us. Plus the weather was great for it, too, with the wind blowing out, so it was a fun day to go out and play hard."

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