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Blue Raiders tangle with ODU in elimination game

Winner will face Rice at 9 a.m. on Saturday

May 23, 2014 · @MTAthletics

THE MATCHUP

Middle Tennessee (31-26) vs. Old Dominion (34-23)
Pete Taylor Park (6,600) - Hattiesburg, Miss.

Friday, May 23 - 3 p.m.

LHP Johnathan Frebis (4-5, 4.41 ERA) vs. RHP Victor Diaz (4-2, 3.19 ERA)

Tickets - Video - Audio - Stats

Tournament Central - Bracket

THE STORYLINE

No. 4 seed Middle Tennessee faces No. 5 seed Old Dominion for the second time in three days in an elimination game on Friday in the Conference USA Baseball Championship. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The Blue Raiders (31-26) and top-seeded Rice played in a tight game for the first three innings. However, the Owls exploded for eight runs in the middle stanzas to take commanding lead and advance to the C-USA Championship semifinal.

On Thursday, Old Dominion had another hard-fought battle to eliminate the FIU Panthers 3-2. The Monarchs scored three runs in the fifth to take over the lead from FIU.

ODU and Middle Tennessee last met on Wednesday, where the Raiders edged the Monarchs 3-2. Blue Raider ace Zac Curtis hurled seven strong innings to capture his ninth victory. RF Jake Ellison stepped in for the injured Dustin Delgado to drive in a run and make a diving catch in right field. Junior Matt Blackham closed the door with his first save of the season in a bases loaded situation.

MT starter Johnathan Frebis (4-5, 4.41 ERA) faces Old Dominion for the second time this season. Frebis went 6.1 innings allowing two earned runs on four hits. Victor Diaz (4-2, 3.19 ERA) also gets his second look at the Raiders. The right-hander gave up two runs on two hits in 3.2 innings pitched in Murfreesboro. ODU went on to win that contest 4-3 in a seven-inning shortened affair.

The winner of Friday's game will face No. 1 seed Rice on Saturday at 9 a.m. in the C-USA Championship semifinal. Fans can watch today's contest on the C-USA Digital Network or listen to Dick Palmer describe the action on WMOT 89.5 FM.

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 11 games for the Blue Raiders, making an immediate impact on the Middle Tennessee lineup. Jarreau has gone 10-for-33 over those 11 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 57 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 57 games, leading the Blue Raiders in average (.345), slugging (.531), RBI (45), and a Conference-USA best 25 doubles. Miller leads C-USA with 45 RBIs, 25 doubles and 120 total bases.

MIXING UP THE LINEUP

With the injury to Dustin Delgado on Wednesday, the Blue Raiders have shifted around their lineup. Delgado led off and started at short stop in the 56 games prior to his injury. Hank LaRue took over the leadoff spot and moved to second base. Austin Bryant went from second base to short, while Jake Ingold moved from DH to third. Freshman Brad Jarreau entered the designated hitter spot and Jake Ellison went back to his old home in right field.

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.

CONFERENCE TOURNEY TIDBITS

Middle Tennessee owns a 70-38 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.

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