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MT meets top-seeded Rice in C-USA Championship

Thursday's contest set for 4 p.m. first pitch

May 22, 2014 · @MTAthletics

THE MATCHUP

Middle Tennessee (31-25) vs. Rice (38-17)
Pete Taylor Park (6,600) - Hattiesburg, Miss.

Thursday, May 22 - 4 p.m.

RHP Paul Mittura (4-3, 3.82 ERA) vs. LHP Blake Fox (11-0, 1.39 ERA)

Tickets - Video - Audio - Stats

Tournament Central - Bracket

THE STORYLINE

No. 4 seed Middle Tennessee returns to action on Thursday at 4 p.m. against top-seeded Rice in day two of the Conference USA Baseball Championship in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The Blue Raiders (31-25) are coming off a hard-fought 3-2 win over Old Dominion on Wednesday morning. A big RBI single and diving catch from Jake Ellison helped preserve the 3-2 lead, while reliever Matt Blackham closed the door in a bases loaded situation for his first save of the year. 

Rice had an easier day on Wednesday, stringing together 15 hits in a 9-2 rout of FIU. Owl sluggers Michael Aquino and Skyler Ewing combined for eight of 10 hits in the heart of the lineup.

Senior RHP Paul Mittura (4-3, 3.82) takes the mound for MT on Thursday against Rice ace Blake Fox (11-0, 1.39 ERA). Mittura earned C-USA Co-Pitcher of the Week honors with Blake Fox after throwing a one-hitter through seven innings. Fox has not lost a collegiate game in 13 appearances and defeated the Raiders earlier in the year.

Thursday's winner will receive an off day on Friday, while the loser will play on Friday at 3 p.m. against the winner of Old Dominion and FIU.

Fans can watch Thursday's contest on the C-USA Digital Network or listen to Dick Palmer describe the action on WMOT 89.5 FM or online at GoBlueRaiders.com. 

NOTES (For full version, view PDF): 

TRIO OF RAIDERS NAMED FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE USA

Three Middle Tennessee baseball players garnered First Team All-Conference USA accolades, as announced by the league office on Tuesday. Outfielder Jared Allen, pitcher Zac Curtis and first baseman Trent Miller were selected first team all-league as voted on by the coaches, media and sports information directors. The three first team honorees are the most for the Raiders since a trio of Bryce Brentz, Justin Guidry and Justin Miller were selected first team All-Sun Belt in 2010.

A JOLT FROM JARREAU

Freshman OF Brad Jarreau has started the last 10 games in right field for the Blue Raiders, making an immediate impact on the Middle Tennessee lineup. Jarreau has gone 10-for-30 over those 10 games with nine runs scored. In the walk-off win over UTSA on May 4, Jarreau drove in the game-tying run in the ninth before scoring on a wild pitch to win the game. He followed that with a three-hit performance at FIU May 9 and a three-RBI game vs. Belmont last Tuesday. He scored two runs and collected a hit and a RBI in one at bat against Marshall on May 16. He doubled, drew a walk and scored versus Old Dominion on Wednesday.

MILLER A PILLAR IN BLUE RAIDER LINEUP

Senior 1B Trent Miller has started all 56 games so far this year for the Blue Raiders, making 50 starts at first base and six in right field. Miller has hit third in all 56 games, leading the Blue Raiders in average (.350), slugging (.538), RBI (45), and a Conference-USA best 25 doubles. Miller leads C-USA with 45 RBIs, 25 doubles and 120 total bases.

BLAZING BLACKHAM

Reliever Matt Blackham has been lights out in his last six appearances. The right-hander has not allowed a hit in the past 6.2 innings pitched. During that stretch, Blackham has fanned nine opposing batters and allowed just two walks. Blackham forced a fly out and struck out the final Old Dominion batter on Wednesday to pick up his first save as a Blue Raider.

THE NATIONAL STAGE

Middle Tennessee's Zac Curtis and Trent Miller both are making splashes on the national stage. Curtis leads the NCAA with 136 strikeouts, ninth with 10.93 strikeouts per game and eighth with five complete games. Miller entered the week second in the NCAA with 25 doubles and fifth in the NCAA with 0.45 doubles per game.

MITTURA TABBED CO-PITCHER OF THE WEEK

Middle Tennessee senior Paul Mittura garnered Conference USA Co-Pitcher of the Week honors on May 18 after his one-hit shutout gem in seven innings of work against Marshall last week. He fanned five Marshall batters and did not surrender a hit until the seventh inning. The Clarksville native didn't return after the seventh due to a 53-minute 12-run explosion for the Raiders in the home-half of the seventh. Reliever Matt Blackham closed the game for MT, recording two hitless innings. MT went on to win the contest 14-0. Mittura became the first Blue Raider starter since Matthew Drake in 2011 to throw a one-hit contest. The senior is a 4-3 this season with a 3.82 earned run average.

MILLER INKING HIS NAME IN THE RECORD BOOKS

Senior Trent Miller ranks sixth with 996 career putouts. The Kansas City became the school's all-time doubles leader last week with the 67th in his career. The 67 doubles are third most among active career leaders in the NCAA. Miller is two shy of reaching Nathan Hines for the single-season mark of 27 set in 2009. Miller is seventh with 155 RBI and 401 total bases. His 243 hits are ninth all-time.

CONFERENCE TOURNEY TIDBITS

Middle Tennessee owns a 70-37 overall record in conference tournament action. The Blue Raiders last appeared in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in 2012. MT won 2-of-3 in the round robin format, but did not advance to the SBC title game due to a head-to-head loss to Arkansas State.

The Blue Raiders last won a conference title in 2009, going 5-1 during the tourney to pick up the NCAA automatic bid. The Raiders went on to upset Vanderbilt in the tournament before falling to Louisville and Vandy to end the season.

Middle Tennessee's 3-2 win over Old Dominion on Wednesday was the first tourney opening win since MT upended Florida Atlantic 12-2 in the 2009 Sun Belt Tournament.

Zac Curtis' six punchouts versus the Monarchs were the most by a Blue Raider pitcher in a conference tournament game since Chad Edwards gunned down six FAU batters on May 22, 2009.

VERSUS RICE

The Blue Raiders took a pair of games from Rice at Reese Smith Jr. Field. LHP Zac Curtis gave up just one earned run on five hits in a complete game 3-2 win over the Owls. Trent Miller and Hank LaRue each hammered homers in the contest. The Owls blanked MT in the Saturday contest, 8-0, as Blake Fox collected his sixth victory over the year. Despite an attempted Rice comeback, the Raiders held on for an 8-5 win as Johnathan Frebis collected the win. Dustin Delgado and Hank LaRue each had three hits in the contest.

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