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MTSU Pummels WKU 10-2 Thanks to Keenan’s Right Hand

By: Jordan Binkley

MTN Sports Reporter

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee baseball handles Western Kentucky 10-2 off the fingertips of Zach Keenan's superb pitching performance Friday night at Reese Smith Jr. Field.

"As a pitcher, whenever your team scores runs, you want to put up a zero. ... they took it and ran with it; they just kept swinging the bats and firing off barrels," said Keenan. "Ten runs that'll win you a lot of games."

Modesty aside, Keenan showcased a stellar performance, allowing only five hits in seven shutout innings. It took the Hilltoppers eight inning to score their first two runs of the night, and Keenan was back in the dugout by that point.

Keenan was not the only one having himself a night; Nathan Sanders totaled five RBIs, including a three-run homer in the third inning. Sanders's five RBIs marked a career-high from the senior.

Sanders even snagged a would-be WKU home run off the warning track in a play you would see on SportsCenter.

"I told Nate earlier, 'Dude, every time I go deep into a game, I swear you have at least one web gem for me,'" Keenan said. "He's saved me so many times."

After two scoreless innings from the Hilltoppers, MTSU jumped ahead in the bottom of the second inning after Brycen Thomas launched a two-run homer to center field, allowing Tatsunori Negishi to score from first base giving the Blue Raiders a 2-0 lead.

In the third, familiarity struck as WKU failed to score a single run setting up an onslaught from the Blue Raiders once they returned to offense. Once MTSU stepped up to the home plate, the inning turned into a home-run derby as Jackson Galloway and Sanders accumulated five scored runs off a pair of homers to give the Blue Raiders a 7-0 lead.

The scoring did not continue until the fifth inning, when Sanders hit an RBI off a fielder's choice allowing Negishi to score from third. Next at-bat, Brian Dillingham added insult to injury when he too hit an RBI off a fielder's choice sending Sanders to home base, extending MTSU's lead to nine.

Loud roars erupted from the crowd in the seventh inning once pinch hitter Mason McLeod made his first appearance at-bat. His fanbase had much to cheer for after he doubled to center field, setting up a Sanders hit that allowed McLeod to score from second, giving MTSU a 10-0 lead.

In the eighth inning, Keenan checked out of the game for Dustin Sprong to maintain mound duty. Not satisfied with being shut out, WKU's Andrew Delaney hit a double to center field, allowing Aidan Gilroy and Tristin Garcia to score, cutting down MTSU's lead to 10-2.

After a scoreless ninth inning from both teams, Trent Seibert sealed the victory for the Blue Raiders after striking out the Hilltoppers' final two batters.

"It was a great game; the guys had a lot of energy today when they got here. I kind of felt like they were going to play well," coach Toman said. "We need to go home tonight and get rest, get some sleep, eat good, and have the same energy tomorrow because it is not finished yet."

With series victory number one in the books, the Blue Raiders are looking to clinch their series against WKU Saturday, April 2, at 3 p.m. at Reese Smith Jr. Field.