Stellar pitching, Stephens' key hits lead Blue Raiders to 13-inning win over Red Wolves

Two teams split doubleheader Sunday

April 28, 2013 · @MTAthletics

JONESBORO, Ark. - Centerfielder Ryan Stephens drove in both runs of Middle Tennessee's 2-1 extra-inning victory over Arkansas State in the second game of a doubleheader at Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field on Sunday afternoon.

The Blue Raiders (24-22, 8-13 Sun Belt) prevailed in a 13-inning pitchers' duel after dropping a 13-9 decision in game one of the doubleheader against the Red Wolves (24-20, 10-11 SBC).

Stephens homered in game two and drove in a total of four runs on the day.

The road swing continues for MT on Tuesday when the Blue Raiders visit Tennessee. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. CT in Knoxville, Tenn.

JONESBORO, Ark. - A sixth-inning rally for Arkansas State proved costly in Middle Tennessee's 13-9 loss in game one.

The Blue Raiders led until the sixth when the Red Wolves scored nine runs to take the lead.

Rightfielder Jake Ellison led MT offensively with a 2-for-4, three-RBI day. Ellison, first baseman Trent Miller and catcher Michael Adkins each hit their fourth home run of the year.

MT capitalized on a pair of walks to take a first-inning lead. Shortstop Ryan Ford opened the game with a base on balls, and Miller also took a walk with two outs. After both runners moved up on a wild pitch, centerfielder Ryan Stephens worked the count full before poking a single through the right side for the 2-0 lead.

The Red Wolves cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first, capitalizing on a leadoff double from designated hitter Collin Massanelli. Massanelli moved to third on a sac bunt then scored on a sac fly to bring ASU within a run.

It was the long ball that paid off in the second inning, as Adkins and Ellison each went deep to give the Blue Raiders a four-run cushion. Adkins took a 2-0 pitch over the leftfield wall to leadoff the frame. After a walk to leftfielder Robert Lawrence, Ellison sent a 2-1 pitch to nearly the same spot as Adkins to make it 5-1.

ASU inched closer in the second and third innings with a run in each frame. Massanelli delivered a RBI-single in the second and first baseman Logan Uxa brought the Red Wolves within two on a RBI-single in the third.

The Blue Raiders put up a three-spot in the fifth to open up a five-run lead. Miller led off the frame with a double and scored on a wild pitch, then Adkins drove Stephens in with double. Ellison's sac fly gave MT the 8-3 lead.

After the Red Wolves got one back in the bottom of the fifth, Miller made up for it with a solo shot in the sixth. He went yard on a 3-1 pitch to make it a 9-4 contest.

It was a nine-run rally in the sixth that gave ASU the lead for good. The Red Wolves scored eight runs with two outs, three of them on bases-loaded walks and one on a bases-loaded hit batter. ASU had just three hits during the rally, including a two-run single from Massanelli that pushed it to a 13-9 lead.

Joey McClung (2-1) took the loss for MT after giving up four runs in just one-third of an inning. He didn't give up a hit but walked four.

Derek Birginske (1-1) earned the win for ASU with an inning of action. He gave up a run on a hit and fanned two. Tanner Ring picked up his second save of the year for shutting out MT over the final three innings.

JONESBORO, Ark. - In what proved to be a quieter game than the first, Middle Tennessee captured a 2-1 extra-inning victory over Arkansas State to split the doubleheader.

MT starter Zac Curtis was outstanding in a career-high 8.1 innings. He allowed one run on four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts before giving way to Daniel Palo. Palo (1-0) shut out the Red Wolves over the final 4.2 innings, giving up just one hit and walking two with one strikeout.

A pitchers' duel ensued in game two. The Red Wolves broke up the scoreless tie in the third, manufacturing a run on a double, wild pitch and squeeze play. Following the double, Curtis retired eight straight batters. The two hits he allowed in the fifth and sixth innings were erased by a fielder's choice and a double play.

ASU starter Cody Woodhouse matched Curtis' effort. After giving up a leadoff single to Ford to open the game, Woodhouse retired 20 in a row before Stephens took him deep in the seventh. Stephens' solo shot, his second long ball of the year, knotted the contest at 1-1.

The duel continued into the 13th. Palo entered in the ninth and ran into a little trouble in the 12th with a walk and hit batter, but a double play ended the Red Wolves' threat.

ASU reliever John Koch (3-4), who pitched the final four innings, picked up two quick outs in the 13th before second baseman Johnny Thomas bounced a single up the middle. Miller took a walk, bringing Stephens to the plate. Stephens, who had been intentionally walked in his two previous plate appearances, made the Red Wolves pay with a base-hit to right, scoring Thomas from second for the 2-1 advantage.

Palo retired the Red Wolves in order in the bottom of the frame to seal the victory.

On the last game...
"It was a must-win. We back ourselves into the corner after a bad first game. We had the lead and let it slip away, then couldn't rebound from it. It carried over offensively, except for Ryan Stephens. He got us the win when we needed it."

On Curtis' performance...
"Zac Curtis, I don't know if he could have thrown any better than what he did. He made one bad pitch, but I could say the same for their guy. What a great competitor he is. Great pitching on both sides, that's for sure."

On the bullpen in game one...
"We had everybody rested and ready to go. I knew sooner or later we were going to have to (get to the bullpen. (Aaron) Hyder was okay, and the next two could not throw strikes. They threw so well during the middle of the week and that gave me confidence to go to them. That's just part of it. They just didn't have it. I know it was a tighter strike zone, but it was for both sides and we didn't adjust to it. It's inexcusable to walk that many people, but we just didn't think it was going to fall apart like it did. It made the bullpen very thin going into (the last game).

"As soon as Curtis got in trouble, I wanted to go to Palo. I was hoping we could keep it tight, and Curtis put us in the situation where we could get Palo in the game, and then he did a great job from there and finished it off."

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