Blue Raiders drop series opener to FIU

Panthers' big third proves costly

April 19, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - A big third inning for the visiting FIU Panthers proved to be the downfall for the Middle Tennessee baseball team in a 12-3 loss on Friday at Reese Smith Jr. Field.

The Panthers (21-16, 9-7 Sun Belt) scored 10 in the frame, tagging MT starter Johnathan Frebis (5-4) for nine of those runs, all earned. Frebis exited after 2.1 innings, allowing nine hits and striking out four with two walks.

The two teams battled through the first two innings quietly before the Panthers' big third. FIU had 10 hits in the inning, including a grand slam off the bat of centerfielder Roche Woodard that capped the onslaught.

The Blue Raiders (21-19, 6-10 SBC) managed to push two runs across in the bottom half of the inning, scoring one on a wild pitch and the other when third baseman Hank LaRue took a pitch in the back with the bases loaded.

After giving up a run in the third, MT reliever Jordan Cooper held the Panthers in check until the eighth when he gave up a pair of runs. Cooper gave way to Garrett Ring for a third of an inning, and Wes Robinson closed out the ninth with his first appearance of the season, allowing one hit before inducing three flyouts.

LaRue added his second RBI in the seventh with a base-knock and finished the day 1-for-3.

Tyler Alexander (3-5) picked up the win for FIU with six innings of work. He gave up three runs, two earned, walked four and struck out five.

The Blue Raiders look to bounce back in game two on Saturday. First pitch is slated for 4 p.m. and Hunter Adkins will take the mound for MT.

On the overall game tonight...
"We will definitely turn the page on that one. Not a good night at all. The third inning just unraveled at that point. I've got to give FIU credit. They swung the bat pretty good with 17 hits in the game. They got us pretty good in that inning and scored 10 runs in one inning, and you don't see that very often. We were just out of the game early and didn't have much of a shot after that."

On Jordan Cooper being the unsung hero tonight...
"I complimented him out there tonight. I complimented him when I took him out of the game, and I complimented him again with the group. That was big for him to get after it the whole time he was in there out of the pen. He had something to prove, and I thought he did a really great job. He executed and he pitched well. He shut them down through those middle innings and gave us a chance where we didn't have to use too much out of the pen and burn it up on Friday night."

On baseball being a game of inches...
"It is definitely a game of inches, and sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. The one Johnny hit in the first inning is probably all Johnny's got. He hit that ball as hard as you can hit it and the wind knocked it down. Hank hits the next ball and hits it good to center field and it is caught there. They did enough and placed the ball enough as they made contact and put the ball in play and kept the pressure on Frebis early, running his pitch count way up early in the game. It really added up in the third and he couldn't get out of it."

On getting things going tomorrow...
"I think the biggest thing is to get some runs early. We need to establish ourselves and take control of the game early. Tonight it just got away from us and made it tough to come back. But tomorrow we just need to score early and put the pressure on them."

On tonight's third inning...
"There have only been a couple games I can think of in my career that have been like that but not many. There weren't many errors or mistakes defensively, it was just that their hits kept finding the holes and sometimes that's baseball. You just need to bear down and stay with it."

On getting things going tomorrow...
"Last time we got beat like this we were able to rebound against UALR for two wins. So this is the kind of game you've got to flush down the toilet because it's going to happen even to the best teams. But what really describes a team is how well you come back and play the next day. We just need that one person to step up and get things going. We didn't have that tonight, but hopefully we can get that going tomorrow and come out with a win."

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