Home runs abound as Blue Raiders claim fifth-straight win over Tennessee

Ellison, Miller hit two home runs apiece

April 30, 2013 · @MTAthletics

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Blue Raider first baseman Trent Miller and rightfielder Jake Ellison combined for four home runs as Middle Tennessee made it five in a row over the Tennessee Volunteers with a 7-6 victory on Tuesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Miller and Ellison each went yard twice and collected three RBI apiece, while Knoxville native Jordan Cooper closed out the final three innings to pick up his first save of the season. Heath Slatton (2-1) earned the victory with 2.2 innings of shutout ball.

Miller's two-run blast in the first set the tone for the evening. After a leadoff single for Knoxville native Ryan Ford, Miller ripped the first pitch over the wall in left-center for the early 2-0 lead.

Vols' leadoff batter Will Maddox stole home in the bottom of the first to cut the deficit in half.

Ellison took a turn going deep in the third with a solo shot to left to push the lead back to two. He turned on the first pitch of the frame for his fifth home run of the year.

A four-run fourth gave Tennessee (18-25) its first lead of the game. The first run crossed on an errant throw down to third, then the Vols knotted things up when MT (25-22) was unable to get the out at the plate on a fielder's choice. Maddox's RBI-single gave Tennessee the 4-3 lead and the Vols tacked on the final run of the rally on another attempt to get the runner at home.

Miller's second home run of the contest and sixth of the season brought the Blue Raiders within a run. With two outs in the sixth, he again took the first pitch over the leftfield wall to make it a 5-4 contest.

Not to be outdone, Ellison added his second home run of the contest in the seventh to put the Blue Raiders back in front. After catcher Dain McNabb took a leadoff walk, Ellison hammered a 1-1 pitch to left for the 6-5 lead. Third baseman Hank LaRue drove in the critical insurance run with a two-out base-knock, scoring Ford for the two-run advantage.

While the offense rallied, Slatton quieted the Vols' bats. He picked up the final out in the fourth and produced the Blue Raiders' first 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, giving up just one hit in the outing and striking out a pair.

Cooper entered the contest in the seventh and erased a leadoff single with a double-play ball. He was tagged for a run in the eighth on a RBI-groundout but shut down the Vols' ninth-inning threat, allowing a two-out single and a walk before picking up the final out.

MT returns to Sun Belt action for the remainder of the season with a series at South Alabama this weekend. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. on Friday in Mobile, Ala.

On the game overall...
"It was a tough game. It was a battle back and forth. We had the one inning where we didn't handle their pressure at all, and they took advantage of it and got us behind. We really battled tonight I thought.

On the home runs...
"The long ball, that's old Blue Raider baseball. When the home runs start coming, they come in waves like that. If you watched us take BP, we were really locked in. Jake was hitting them over the trees and so was Trent, and all the sudden it translates into the game. They both hit two home runs and that's the difference in the game. We haven't been able to get that big pop and get the ball out of the park to turn a game around in a hurry. That's what happened tonight."

On the bullpen...
"Between Slatton and Cooper, those two came in and shut the door and I thought really did an outstanding job. Slatton was going pretty good, we just didn't want to use him too much. He threw the best he's probably thrown all spring. He was very composed for a freshman going out there under these circumstances.

"With Cooper, we got into the ninth inning and (Aaron) Hyder was ready, but with the lefthander coming up, we left him in and he made a good pitch and got out of it."

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