Blue Raiders Split Doubleheader with UAB in Walk-off Fashion
By Will Carter MTN Sports Reporter April 24, 2021
Bottom of the inning with runners on first and second. Two outs with a full count, and the game on the line. Will it be a strikeout or do we all get to go home and celebrate a walk-off home run?
That’s the scene every kid with a ball and a bat has played out in their head hundreds of times. It always ends in a walk-off and a loud scream of “and the crowd goes crazy!” Most kids never get to live those imaginations, but freshman Briggs Rutter wasn’t in his backyard when the ball left his bat on a path to the 50-yard line of Floyd Stadium.
“Pitchers think about pitching, and hitters think about hitting walk-offs,” Rutter said. “That was probably the coolest moment of my career. I think I blacked out going around the bases.”
It was a night of firsts for Briggs Rutter. The catcher out of nearby Columbia was tasked with taking pitches from veterans Peyton Wigginton and David Zoz in his first appearance behind the plate. Rutter struggled in his first at-bats, going 0-3 with two strikeouts until his shining moment in the bottom of the eighth. The three-run homer gifted Middle Tennessee a 5-2 win over C-USA foe UAB to tie the series at one a piece.
Middle Tennessee and UAB were set for a doubleheader on Saturday with only one game being played on Friday, but potential weather in the forecast for Saturday moved the doubleheader up a day.
“It got us out of bed at 7 a.m. and we didn’t know it was gonna rain,” MT head coach Jim Toman said. “It doesn’t matter when you play, you just gotta strap it on and play.”
Plagued by errors, the Blue Raiders fell to the Blazers 4-2 in game one, and looked to Peyton Wigginton to carry them on the mound in game two. Wigginton pitched 6.2 innings allowing two runs on eight hits and three strikeouts. David Zoz replaced Wigginton for the last out of the sixth inning. Zoz was awarded the win after 1.1 innings of work and two strikeouts.
“It’s unusual for us to have errors, but today was a little shaky,” Toman said. “The defense (this season) has been pretty good, and the pitching has been pretty good. When we get behind we haven’t been able to come back unlike today.”
Aside from Rutter’s heroics, the Blue Raiders couldn’t put the ball into play for most of the game. As a team, they batted an average of .250 in game two. Sophomore Brett Coker and junior Daniel Freeman led the way for Middle Tennessee with a batting average of .500 in the win.
The Blue Raiders can secure a series split with a win Saturday versus the Blazers. First pitch is set for 1 p.m. but is subject to change due to weather.