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Blue Raiders Champs of SBC; Seniors Go Out in Style

May 13, 2001 · MT Media Relations
On a day that was set aside to honor the senior members of the Blue Raider baseball team, it was a freshman that led them to a 6-2 victory over South Alabama and a share of the Sun Belt Conference title in their first season in the league.

John Williams pitched arguably his best game of the season in a complete game in which he allowed two runs on only eight hits. He walked only two batters while striking out four. In the process, he improved his record to 7-1, the most wins for a rookie since Brad Howard tallied an equal number in 1997.

"I was so happy for the seniors," said Williams. "These guys have been through a lot in their time and all they have talked about is winning a ring in their last year."

The Blue Raiders fell behind in the game early. A wild pitch >from Williams allowed Cameron Likely to score from third to give the Jags a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth.

The Blue Raiders rallied in the bottom of the sixth. With one out and runners at first and third, Brandon Johnson slapped his team-leading 19th double to left center to drive Justin Sims across. A flyout gave the Jags two outs and it looked as if starter Tony Neal would wiggle out of the jam.

However, Neal uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Josh Renick to score from third and the relay throw from catcher Warren Hanna bounced away >from Neal and Johnson never slowed down from third, scoring on the play and giving the Blue Raiders a 3-1 lead.

Likely blasted a homer over the left field wall in the top of the seventh inning to cut the Blue Raider lead to 3-2, but it would be the last time that the Jags would cross home plate.

The Blue Raiders again touched the Jags for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Chuck Akers led off with a single and was sacrificed down to second on a bunt from Jason Howarth. Neal got a strikeout >from pinch hitter Kyle Skillman, but walked Renick with two outs to extend the inning.

An infield hit for Marshall Nisbett loaded the bases and Sims delivered a two-run single to left, chasing Neal from the contest. Brandon Johnson greeted reliever Jason Glasscock with a single to center that brought Nisbett across and solidified the Blue Raiders' lead at 6-2.

Williams worked a perfect eighth and ninth inning to preserve the victory and his second complete game effort of the season.

"I have told this team that they are a very good team, but great teams win championships at Middle Tennessee and this team did that today," said Head Coach Steve Peterson.

"I am happy for all of the players, but especially the seniors that have put so much of themselves into this program and this season. I'm also glad we were able to win it at home in front of our great fans that have supported us all year. A big thanks should go to them and for what their support meant to this ball club this weekend and all season."

The crowd was certainly a factor in the series as the Blue Raiders drew 5,238 spectators to Reese Smith Field during the decisive weekend series for an average of 1,746 per game. Over the final four home games for the team, 7,911 fans came through the turnstiles for an average of 1,977.

The Blue Raider victory give the team the #1 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament which is set to begin on Wednesday. The Blue Raiders are set to take on Arkansas State at 7 PM on the tournament's opening day.

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