By Russell Smythia MTN Sports Reporter April 16, 2021
MTSU entered Friday on a three-game win streak in conference play. Western Kentucky arrived in Murfreesboro on Friday with a three-game losing streak but hadn't played a conference game.
The Blue Raiders came into Friday with hot bats after beating Marshall in their last three games averaging over eight runs a game. Meanwhile the Hilltoppers scored a combined two runs in their last three games.
The Hilltoppers had their ace, Kelsey Aikey, in the circle to try and slow the Raiders down. The Blue Raiders had Corrina Dodd pitching. The last outing for Dodd was not a good one as she got relieved in the first inning against Marshall after having a rough start.
The teams combined for a total of three hits, as MTSU found a way to win 1-0.
“We knew Aikey was going to be really good, they’re whole pitching staff is really good.” said head coach Jeff Breeden. “The key tonight was that Dodd matched her pitch-for-pitch. She did a great job, then Kailey Ahlstrom came in and got us a double play. Our kids just stayed the course, they believe they can play and they showed it tonight. Not only can we win when we hit, but we can win playing defense and pitching. That’s what champions do.”
“Through this week at practice, I focused on pitching strikes. Going at the batters and not getting in my head,” said Dodd. “I was in those tough positions in practice so that if it came, which it did in this game, like the inning that they had runners at second and third, it just played itself out here.”
The game was a pitcher's duel, with the first scoring chance of the game not coming till the bottom of the second. MTSU got the bases loaded with zero outs and without getting a hit, but they failed to plate a run. WKU answered with their own chance in the top of the third, getting runners at second and third on a sacrifice bunt but Dodd shut them down keeping the game tied at zero.
Lexi Cushing led off the bottom of the fourth with a double for the Blue Raiders but once again nothing came of this scoring opportunity. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Summer Burgess led off by drawing a walk and then stealing second. A few batters later, she scored the only run of the game with heads-up base running on an error by the Hilltoppers shortstop.
Dodd recorded 12 consecutive outs before allowing a leadoff double in the seventh. With the tying run at second, the Raiders brought in Ahlstrom to close out the game. She struck out the first batter she faced. Then the Blue Raiders ended the game with a double play as Jocelynn De La Cruz fielded a grounder and threw the ball to first for the second out of the inning, then Cushing fired the ball back across the infield to Burgess who was covering third base as the runner tried to advance from second. Burgess tagged her out and the Raiders completed the shutout of the Hilltoppers in the first game of the weekend.
These teams will play a double-header Saturday starting at 2 p.m.