Blue Raiders look to make it five in a row over Tennessee Tuesday

First pitch slated for 5 p.m. CT

April 29, 2013 · @MTAthletics

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee baseball team hits the road on Tuesday for a mid-week matchup against Tennessee at Lindsey Nelson Stadium beginning at 6 p.m. ET.

The Blue Raiders are coming off a 2-1 extra-inning victory in the series finale at Arkansas State on Sunday. Shortstop Ryan Ford had two hits in each game of the series. Ford finished 6-for-12 at the plate this weekend with three runs scored and four walks. Pitcher Zach Curtis threw a gem in Sunday's finale, going 8.1 innings while giving up just four hits and one run to set the foundation for the Blue Raiders' 13-inning win.

Middle Tennessee (24-22, 8-13 Sun Belt) defeated the Volunteers last Tuesday at Reese Smith Jr. Field. A solid performance from the bullpen guided the victory, as five pitchers out of the pen combined to hold the Vols hitless over the final seven innings.

Tennessee currently leads the all-time series with the Blue Raiders, 31-18. Last time out, MT used a big five-run fourth inning to open up the scoring and finished with an 11-5 victory in front of the home crowd. With that win, the Blue Raiders now own a four-game winning streak over UT.

Kooper Kessler (1-0) gets the nod and will be making his first start on the mound this season. Kessler pitched two innings and gave up no hits and no runs on his way to earning the win a week ago against the Vols. He brings a 2.75 ERA into his first start with 15 strikeouts in nine appearances this year.

Centerfielder Ryan Stephens continues to be a force at the plate and leads the Blue Raiders with his .337 average this year. His .451 slugging percentage is good for second on the team and he is 6-for-8 in stolen base attempts this year.

The Vols (18-24, 6-15 SEC) are coming off a 2-1 series defeat against Florida over the weekend and have won just two of their last eight games.

UT will send the righthander Blake Thomas (2-1) to the mound for Tuesday's contest. Thomas started on the hill a week ago and lasted just 3.2 innings. He gave up seven runs, all earned, on six hits and took the loss for the Vols. Thomas now carries a 6.75 ERA into this matchup.

Infielder Will Maddox leads the charge at the plate for the Vols with his .353 average, and his .424 slugging percentage is good for second on the squad. Maddox has crossed the plate 35 times this year and is 16-for-18 in stolen base.

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