By: Austin Caperton
MTN Sports Reporter
MTSU was down 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh. FAU pitcher Donnie Gobourne was pitching very well and had shut the Blue Raiders out in five innings, only allowing a single run in the fourth.
Laura Mealer is no stranger to big moments, just a few days before she had hit a home run in the fifth that tied the game against Mississippi State. But today, she couldn’t seem to hit the ball.
Mealer was up to bat in the bottom of the seventh, representing the winning run. She had not gotten a hit and struck out twice, she felt like she was due.
“I knew it was my time.”
Mealer got the pitch she was looking for and hit it deep to center field, over the fence, and out of the park to walk it off with a two-run home run.
Coach Breeden was very proud of Laura and spoke highly of her, “Here’s what Laura Mealer is, everybody needs to understand this, she’s a winner. Deep down inside, she’s a winner.”
Perhaps lost in the shuffle after such an exciting finish was the pitching duel that took place today between Claire Woods and Donnie Gobourne. Both pitchers were excellent today, each had at least five shutout innings and both went the distance.
Claire Woods was coming off a four-inning performance against Mississippi State where she struggled, as was to be expected given the conditions. She bounced back today, pitching multiple shutout innings and keeping FAU from extending the lead with an excellent seventh inning performance.
Along with her pitching display, Woods came through at the plate for the Blue Raiders in clutch time. Woods cracked a single into left field to start the rally that set up the walk-off home run by Mealer.
Breeden was quick to praise Woods for her performance today, “She pitched a solid game for us and she got a hit that started that rally.”
Both MTSU and FAU struggled to string hits together, accounting for six hits each in total. FAU was able to get on the board in the second inning after a throwing error by Woods allowed FAU to score one.
Shelby Sargent was the only player for Middle Tennessee to compile multiple hits on the day. Sargent has had 5 hits in her last three games, seeing the ball well lately.
Maya Amm hit a sacrifice fly that increased the Owls’ lead to two and that held until the fourth inning when Claire Czajkowski hit an RBI single to put Middle Tennessee on the board.
Following that, neither team could seem to get on base, Woods pitching to contact and Gobourne striking out 8 batters in total. The score held until the sixth when Zoey Jones hit a deep shot to left field to give FAU a 3-1 lead.
Coach Breeden had a message for his team prior to the bottom of the seventh.
“I told them, we’re down just two, we’re not down six. We’ve come back a million times so let’s have another one right here, and they believed they could do it.”
The bottom of the seventh inning started and after Woods hit a single to get the tying run to the plate, Sargent delivered a double to get the runner to third. Abby Shoulders was at the plate and a wild pitch allowed Jaya Herring to get across to make it a one-run game.
Following that, Laura Mealer hit her sixth home run of the season to give the Blue Raiders their 16th win of the year and keep hope alive of taking the series.
Mealer praised her teammates following the win.
“The support I have from this team is incredible, I was happy but I could feel the fact that everybody else was happier for me than I was for myself and that’s a big deal for me.”
The win ended a five-game losing streak for the Blue Raiders. MTSU will look to take the momentum of a walk-off win into the game tomorrow to get their second series win in-conference this season.
First pitch for the final game of the series is Sunday at 12 p.m.