Raiders fall to top-seeded Rice, 8-2

MT takes on Old Dominion Friday in 3 p.m. elimination game

May 22, 2014 · @MTAthletics


HATTIESBURG, Miss. - No. 4 seed Middle Tennessee couldn't slow down the top-seeded Rice offense in the middle innings, as the Blue Raiders fell 8-2 to the Owls on Thursday in the Conference USA Baseball Championship. Rice advances to Saturday's semifinal, while Middle Tennessee plays No. 5 Old Dominion in an elimination game on Friday at 3 p.m.

The first three innings were flawless for both starters. The Owls (39-17) piled on eight runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to take a commanding lead. Middle Tennessee (31-26) scrapped together a pair of runs, but were held at bay most of the evening by Rice ace Blake Fox.

Starter Paul Mittura (4-4) was tagged with the loss giving up five runs, three earned, on four hits in 4.1 innings pitched. Rice's Fox (12-0) kept his unbeaten streak alive, allowing an earned run on three hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings of work.

Short stop Austin Bryant went 1-for-3 with a run, walk and a RBI. Catcher Michael Adkins also drove in a run with a two-out single. Hank LaRue scored a run and had a double in the contest. Rice's Chase McDowell went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in.

In the fourth inning, Keenan Cook broke up Mittura's hitless outing with a single up the middle. Two batters later, Michael Aquino hammered a two-run bomb to left field giving the Owls the first runs of the game.

Rice loaded the bases in the fifth inning. A line drive dinged Mittura, but the pitcher was able to recover and get the runner out at home plate. However, that play ended the night for Mittura, bringing in reliever Garrett Ring. A fielder's choice and throwing error would bring home two more Owls runs. A sac ground out by Shane Hoelscher scored Connor Teykl to stretch Rice's advantage to five.

McDowell tripled to right center in the sixth, adding a pair of more runs for the Owls. Another single by Ford Stainback later in the inning extended Rice's lead to eight.

Adkins roped a two-out single in the seventh, scoring Bryant to break up the shutout. In the ninth inning, LaRue doubled to left field. He scored off a sac ground out by Bryant.

Ring finished the game with three earned runs allowed on four hits in two-thirds of an inning. Nathan Foriest threw three solid innings with just one hit given up during that stretch. Owls close Matt Dittman surrendered a run on a hit in the final two stanzas.

Middle Tennessee plays a rematch with No. 5 seed Old Dominion on Friday at 3 p.m. Murfreesboro's Johnathan Frebis (4-5, 4.41 ERA) gets the nod on the mound. Fans can watch the game on the C-USA Digital Network and listen on WMOT 89.5 FM.

NOTES: Rice's Keenan Cook broke up Paul Mittura's no-hit effort with a single up the middle in the fourth inning ... Ryan Stephens broke up the Rice no-hitter in the sixth inning with a leadoff single.


Middle Tennessee Head Coach Jim McGuire

Opening Statement:

"We matched up early with (Blake) Fox. He dominated us at home as well, so we knew what we were getting into. He's a very, very good pitcher, one of the best pitchers in the league, if not the best, and he showed it again today. We matched up with him early. (Paul) Mittura was really good. Both guys had no-hitters going through three innings. But then Paul made a mistake and they hit the home run to go up 2-0. (Mittura) getting hit in the hand, obviously, changed the entire game for us. He was pitching good enough that I thought he could go deep into the game. But, we just could not muster anything against Fox. I just have to tip my hat to him. Our guys kept battling, but we just got behind too much early."

On tomorrow's game:

"As a team, we're not done yet. We have to focus on trying to beat Old Dominion tomorrow, and that's it. We're not looking toward Saturday yet, because you have to beat Old Dominion to get there. They have a very good club. We had a tight game with them yesterday and I don't expect it to be any different tomorrow. We've had battle with them all four times that we played them. So we have to readjust. We've won eight of nine, but got humbled today. So we have find a way to bounce back tomorrow."

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